Warming and the Search for Climate Justice for the Poor
A slight temperature rise is THE big problem for the poor? It might hurt the Filipino farmer below somewhat, who looks like he is harvesting sugar-cane, but how come he is not sitting in the air-conditioned cabin of a big mechanical harvester? THAT is the real issue.
There are many things the poor need before they need to worry about the climate. Such as cheap electricity, cheap petroleum products and a government that is repealing laws and regulations rather than adding to them. That canecutter could be sitting in an airconditioned cabin and harvesting 100 times more cane than he is now if only his government had long ago decided to sit on its hands. China did it with resounding success so the way ahead for the poor of the 3rd world is clear. And it has nothing to do with climate
A far-reaching report being drafted by the United Nations' authoritative climate science panel explores in comprehensive detail the environmental justice, poverty and other human rights challenges facing the world as it pursues the urgent and daunting goals of the Paris Agreement.
"In a 1.5 degree Celsius warmer world"—a world we're likely to see by mid-century without a global transformation in the next decade, the latest version of the draft report says—"those most at risk will be individuals and communities experiencing multidimensional poverty, persistent vulnerabilities and various forms of deprivation and disadvantage."
To help protect them, it calls for policies "guided by concerns for equity and fairness and enhanced support for eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities."
In scope, scale and detail—but also in its careful attention to questions of ethics and justice—this report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a landmark work in progress.
The emerging report is more than 800 pages long, heavily footnoted and packed with graphics and sidebars. It lays out as never before "an assessment of current knowledge of the extent and interlinkages of the global environmental, economic, financial, social and technical conditions that a 1.5 degree Celsius warmer world represents." It takes on "complex ethics questions" that demand "interdisciplinary research and reflection."
How, it asks, will a 1.5 degree warmer world impact the human rights of the dispossessed, "including their rights to water, shelter, food, health and life? How will it affect the rights of the urban and rural poor, indigenous communities, women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities?"
The draft report gauges how the half-degree gap from 1.5 to 2 degrees of warming "amounts to a greater likelihood of drought, flooding, resource depletion, conflict and forced migration."
It notes that even if all the nations achieve their Paris pledges, the result will be worldwide emissions in 2030 that already lock in 1.5 degrees of warming by the end of this century. The temperature barrier would likely be broken by mid-century, as Reuters noted in first reporting on the draft study. Even the 2 degree target eventually would fall unless emissions are brought to zero, the IPCC and other agencies have repeatedly warned.
Either way, the outlook is dire, especially for the poor.
"The risks to human societies through impacts on health, livelihood, food and water security, human security and infrastructure are higher with 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming compared to today, and higher still with 2 degrees Celsius global warming compared with 1.5 degrees," the draft concludes.
"These risks are greatest for people facing multiple forms of poverty, inequality and marginalization; people in coastal communities and those dependent on agriculture; poor urban residents; and communities displaced from their homes."
Suitable pathways forward, the report said, must square the circle of energy use and sustainable development—not an easy task, but one that would pay off with a cleaner environment, better health, prospering ecosystems and other benefits. There would be risks for poverty, hunger and access to energy; those must be "alleviated by redistributive measures."
How to Move Forward?
The focus on justice and fairness is enlisted to press for substantial transformations of the energy landscape as emissions from fossil fuels are eliminated and changes in land management, among other steps, are pressed hard.
On the one hand, these remedies "are put at risk by high population growth, low economic development, and limited efforts to reduce energy demand," the report says. On the other hand, the solutions cannot be allowed to burden the poor.