Control the Unavoidable

Control the Unavoidable

The neo-conservative Tea Party and new President-elect Donald Trump regard climate change as a myth. However, well-established scientific evidence proves them wrong. The consequences of the changing climate are unpredictable; millions of people will certainly be displaced. Climate action is expensive but there is no alternative.

Climate change is happening even faster than the predictions would have told us five years ago or ten years ago.“ President Obama stated at the SXSL Discussion in the White House this October. Climate change is the major challenge of our time. More than 95 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is the result of human activity. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the globally biggest knowledge society, rang the alarm bells in its 2014 study and warned against unrestricted greenhouse-emissions. “A given amount of emissions will lead to a given amount of temperature increase that will lead to a given amount of smooth incremental sea level rise“, and the report concludes that “pushing global temperatures past certain thresholds could trigger abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes that have massively disruptive and large-scale impacts“. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which serves as reference in the negotiations taking place within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assumes a highly-probable forecast traced to an increased amount of carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere in its assessment from 2007: tropical storms and hurricanes will intensify, heavy rainfalls and floods are becoming an ever more frequent occurrence, rising temperatures will lead to droughts and crop failures, sea-level rise will be due to rainfalls and melting glaciers.

Freshwater availability in Central South, East and Southeast Asia particularly in large river basins is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could aversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s“, the IPCC-scientists write in their 2007 report. The global population has tripled since 1950, about 3,3 billion people suffer from freshwater scarcity, one billion of them is forced to consume polluted water. Persistent droughts and further rising sea-levels will worsen the already existing problem in the near future.

img_8242Back in 2006, the 700 pages Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, authored by the London macroeconomist Nicholas Stern, and published for the British government, attracted attention beyond the academic world. His study examined the economic implications of climate change and the closely related consequences for modern societies. Preventing the excess of 550 parts per million, carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere, costs about one percent of the world’s GDP, Stern calculated. The global economy will have to bear the ultimate costs of reducing CO2 emissions. That can be one explanation why there has not been much of political will shown in protecting vulnerable communities.

Migration patterns and sources of displacement have changed. Many experts argue that the migrant/refugee dichotomy disregards the very complex reasons of people who have to flee but are not considered as refugees according to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The deterioration of the environment and the impacts of climate change will trigger large population movements. As the IPCC illustrated in its first report in 1990, “the gravest effects of climate change may be those on human migration“. According to figures of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), an overall of approximately 1,6 billion people have been affected by droughts over the last 30 years; hurricanes, cyclones and other types of storms made a severe impact on 718 million people during the same period. The United Nations estimate that about 350 Million people can be displaced due to the adverse effects of climate change. In international refugee law, however, destructive environmental conditions are not sufficient to claim protection. Stern declared that “the exact number who will actually be displaced or forced to migrate will depend on the level of investment, planning and resources“. Contracting parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement recognize that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies. However, necessary measures remain to be addressed.

The article on ‘Loss & Damage’ in the PA suggests solutions in supporting people affected by environmental disasters. In paragraph 50 signatory states of the PA call on the Executive Committee of the Warsaw Interantional Mechanism to establish a Task Force to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change. Sea-level rise and groundwater salinization which have already damaged common agricultural land on islands and coastal regions prevail the central inescapable causes of action to be claimed in a long-term perspective. The most affected countries are the least responsible. The article will be characterized by the hostility of industrialised countries to pay for compensations. For comparison: measured in absolute numbers, China is the biggest polluter with 9.019,518 kilotons (kt) followed by the United States (5.305,570 kt) and India (2.074,345 kt). Bangladesh, a country expected to be hit hard by climate change impacts, emitted only 57,069 kt CO2 in 2011 according to World Bank figures.

The goal is to avoid the uncontrollable and control the unavoidable, said Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in a statement to the German weekly “Der Spiegel“ ten years ago. The 2030 agenda of the international community and the Paris Agreement which are the blueprint of political policy on a world stage will require action from every single country and its citizens, from the private sector, non-profit organizations and the academia. Author Naomi Klein summarizes as she pleads for an “act on climate“ in her book ‘This Changes Everything’:The longer we wait, the more it builds up, the more dramatically we must change to reduce the risks of catastrophic warming.

Thilo Kuehne

Global Vision Institute

The text has been sent to the subscribers of GVI’s November newsletter. More articles from international experts will be published the coming weeks. If you wish to sign up for our newsletter, put your name and email on the right of this page.

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