UN Report on "Climate Apartheid"On June 25th, the United Nations released a report saying the world is at risk of a “climate apartheid.” This describes a situation where wealthy people will be able to escape heat and hunger caused by climate change, while the poor are forced to endure distressing conditions. Philip Alston, a UN expert on human rights and extreme poverty, said climate change “could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.” While there are many things to understand from the dense findings, there are key highlights that are crucial to know about the UN report on “climate apartheid.”

5 facts from the UN report on “climate apartheid”:

  1. Extreme weather conditions threaten to undo the last 50 years of progress in poverty reduction around the globe.
    Weather-related conditions like droughts and flooding are much more likely to occur if climate change continues to worsen. People who already experience extreme poverty tend to live in communities that depend on local harvests to survive. If weather causes food supplies to disappear, these people are likely to experience famine and malnutrition. This can result in illness and death.
  2. Even the “best-case scenario” for climate change would lead to food insecurity in many regions.
    Next, Alston says that “even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger.” Reaching current targets would mean only a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature by 2100. This would cause many already poor regions to become food insecure.
  3. The UNHC says that it’s likely the wealthy will be able to pay to escape worsening conditions.
    Alston notes that “an over-reliance on the private sector could lead to a climate apartheid scenario in which the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer.” For example, he cited the 2012 Hurricane Sandy as an example of this, because many impoverished New Yorkers were without basic necessities during the disaster, while “the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator.”
  4. Democracy could be at risk in affected regions.
    If weather conditions lead governments to declare states of emergency, it is likely to cause drastic changes in power structures. The report says “states may very well respond to climate change by augmenting government powers and circumscribing some rights. This will be a very fraught process and require great vigilance on the part of governments, human rights institutions and national and regional courts.” Additionally, some governments will be under-prepared to cope with serious conditions. As a result, this can cause social unrest and community discontent. It could even spark nationalist, xenophobic and racist responses.
  5. There are potential solutions.
    The report also suggests that tackling the problem with a human-rights-focused response may be the best way. It includes giving vulnerable communities access to protective infrastructure, financial aid, relocation options, employment support and land tenure. Additionally, this includes access to food, clean water and healthcare. Furthermore, the report noted that building coalitions are key to addressing the issue, saying “major human rights actors must tackle questions about emissions, resource allocation, and energy and economic policy that states are grappling with and where there is a real need for detailed, actionable recommendations.”

Why the report matters

Overall, the release of the UNHR document has sparked widespread media coverage and global awareness. Understanding these 5 Facts from the UN report on “climate apartheid” is a critical step in addressing the problem.

-Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, the agricultural sector of Puerto Rico suffered one of the most devastating losses in its history. The island lost about 80 percent of its entire crop value in the initial aftermath alone; according to the Puerto Rican Department of Agriculture, the damage amounted to approximately $780 million in lost agricultural yields. The organization, Boricua, however, promotes agroecology in the hopes of limiting agricultural damage in the face of future disasters.

The Impact and Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

For weeks after Maria, felled trees in the hundreds of thousands dominated the landscape of rural Puerto Rico, stripped of their leaves and bark. The storm also flattened fields of crops or simply blew them away. To make matters worse, the hurricane also killed thousands of livestock and decimated the infrastructure of the area.

For the few farmers who were still able to produce anything, the loss of infrastructure and supply chains rendered it virtually impossible to transport food from farms to cities or towns. Not long after the catastrophe ended, one dairy farmer reported that he had thrown out about 4,000 liters of milk a day for almost a week, since there was no way to transport or sell milk and nowhere to store it safely.

These losses occurred at the worst possible time; according to Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, the island of Puerto Rico had “only enough food for about a week.” Before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was importing roughly 80 percent of its food, a large percentage of which came from other islands in the Caribbean, including St. Martin and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico became vulnerable to starvation between the destruction of homes, roads and vehicles, as well as the hurricane’s damage on nearby islands that exported food to them.

Food Vulnerability and Efforts to Rebuild

Many Puerto Ricans described the aftermath of Maria as a revelation, exposing the vulnerability of an island dependent on external sources for all of its food. For Puerto Rico to avoid this vulnerability in the face of future disasters, it needed to be able to rely on its own agricultural sector – the same agricultural sector that Hurricane Maria had recently ripped to shreds.

Despite the destruction, some Puerto Ricans saw this as an opportunity to begin rebuilding. After the end of the catastrophe, the Organization Boricua de Agricultura Eco-Organica (often known simply as Boricua, a local word for a native Puerto Rican), along with various other local organizations, such as the Resiliency Fund, mobilized to clear roads and provide assistance and food to rural communities affected by the hurricane. This help came mainly in the form of solidarity brigades, which were groups of local volunteers who had banded together to help their neighbors survive and rebuild after Maria.

Organization Boricua

For the Organization Boricua, these relief brigades came in moving camps which would spend three or four days in each farm they visited. During this time, volunteers would help rebuild farm structures and repair damage to farmers’ houses, along with helping farmers replant crops that had been ruined or blown away.

These relief camps represented a long tradition for Boricua. The organization, which emerged in 1989, promotes agroecology and solidarity among rural communities in Puerto Rico. For Boricua, the use of volunteer brigades was not a new development in response to the hurricane, but an old tactic being put to use in rural Puerto Rico’s time of need. Farmers affiliated with the Organization Boricua frequently form brigades to help their neighbors in times of need. Needy farmers may invite volunteers from neighboring farms to come over with food or spare tools or simply to help with harvests, plantings or repairs.


However, the organization’s work goes beyond promoting solidarity and mutual aid. Boricua is a proponent of agroecology – an ecological approach to agriculture which promotes biodiversity, sustainability and the use of native vegetation in farming. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Boricua relief brigades did more than simply help bereaved farmers keep their heads above water – the organization, along with many others, began preparing rural Puerto Rico for a more sustainable way of life.

Boricua promotes a holistic approach to farming, in which farms contribute to and rely on the natural biodiversity of their surroundings. In addition, agroecology allows farmers to stop being dependent on the use of commercial seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. By cutting free from commercial farming supplies, agroecology both fosters independence in small farms and denies the use of common agricultural practices that damage the environment.

Also, farmers in Puerto Rico have good reason to reject commercial agricultural practices. Research shows that one-third of greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural production around the globe. Because of this, unsafe and unsustainable farming practices can come back to bite farmers; as the world’s climate grows warmer and more erratic, storms and droughts are growing more and more frequent. Hurricane Maria itself is a perfect example of this as the hurricane was one of the worst storms on record ever to hit Puerto Rico. Experts are worried that storms of Maria’s size and destructiveness may become the new norm if the pattern of global warming does not change. So, by turning Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector away from commercial practices, Boricua may be contributing a small part to the aversion of future storms like Maria.

In addition, there is a reason to believe that a more sustainable, more biodiverse method of farming would be less vulnerable in the face of another disaster like Maria. Research shows that smaller, diversified farms, on average, suffer less damage than larger farms that use monoculture.

Thanks to the efforts of the Organization Boricua and other local environmental organizations, Puerto Rican farmers have begun the slow climb out of the wreckage of Hurricane Maria and toward a greener, more sustainable future. Hopefully, if this trend continues, agriculture on the island will not only be able to heal from the hurricane’s damage but also better prepare itself for the next storm to come along.

– Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

Women Globally are Combating Climate Change
As people continue to notice the increase in climate change patterns, those who have been mostly affected by the alternations have come together to discuss solutions to the re-occurring consequences of climate change.

Many of these people are women from rural communities around the world. Women globally are combating climate change by standing up to the companies who provoke pollution in the environment, and collaborating with international organizations, like the United Nations (U.N.), to propose solutions to help those affected the most by climate change and help rebuild their livelihoods.

Women from Rural Communities: The Main Struggle

Over the past few years, reports have surfaced about the plights of women who live in rural communities around the world; many who depend on agriculture to make a living.  These plights often reflect the societal disadvantages rural women face, compared to their male counterparts.

A report published by the United Nations states that, “Women and girls are among the people most likely to be poor, to lack access to assets, education, health care and other essential services, and to be hit hardest by climate change.”

With this statistic proven as a reality for many women from rural communities, many of these women globally are combating climate change by reaching out and getting those in power to listen.

Initiatives for Change

Several initiatives have been established in partnership with the United Nations, as well as other organizations, to combat the effects of climate change in international rural communities.

One such initiative is the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation, which brought together indigenous women from North America to discuss solutions to the ever-present issue of indigenous territories being threatened by oil company exploitation. These companies will try to expand profits by overworking and mistreating local populations. In addition to the loss of sacred territory, these indigenous women also face the threat of climate change that can destroy their livelihoods.

According to Osprey Orielle Lake, executive director of WECAN, “Women are standing up for their own territories but also for the climate, for the water, for the forest, for the land. It’s important to understand that women who protect their land also protect the climate.”

Osprey also explained how the purpose of meetings like this are to confront banks with the option of exchanging the manufacturing of fossil fuels for the manufacturing of renewable energy.

Other Initiatives for Change

Women globally are combating climate change in nations like Bolivia and Mali, and have made significant efforts and collaborations with organizations to better assist women recover from the effects of climate change.

  • Bolivia: Since women hold the most responsibility for producing and preparing food, they are accounted as the most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Women in Bali have made initiatives to create better livelihoods for themselves by passing laws that requires at least half of government positions to be held by women. Furthermore, donations  to Bolivian women have helped empower them to live more independent lives.
  • Mali: Women have dealt with the degradation of land and natural resources due to climate change, and so numerous supporters created initiatives to help equip these women to better overcome agricultural challenges. One of these initiatives is Agriculture Femmes et Développement Durable (AgriFed), created by the organization, Groupe d’Animation Action au Sahel (GAAS) Mali. This effort serves to help women farmers advance their farming practices as well as provide them with information on how to produce the best quality products.

As women strive to protect their land against climate change and businesses who try and push them from their sacred territories, more effort can definitely be done to ensure that mother nature doesn’t destroy the livelihoods of mothers around the world.

– Lois Charm
Photo: Flickr

Typically, when people deny climate change, they tend to assert the idea that climate change could not possibly affect them, or anyone, by the foreseeable future. Recent studies show how global warming affects the poor, and the studies predict an impact on the world’s poor as early as 13 years from now.

It has been known for some time that climate change will disproportionately affect the poor. First of all, most of the world’s poor live in tropical regions while wealthier people live in temperate regions, such as the Indonesian Islands compared to the United Kingdom.

The world’s poorest countries also have the most to lose from global warming and the least leeway for resolutions for these predicted losses. Most of the world’s poorest countries have citizens who depend heavily on agriculture – be it self-sustaining agriculture or agriculture for profit.

As recurring floods, heatwaves, higher-intensity storms, and droughts occur because of the increase in overall temperature, countries that depend on agriculture will suffer the most.

Consequently, deniers tend to think these problems will occur in a future era – if they occur at all. Unbeknownst to them, these problems may occur as soon as the year 2030, according to the World Bank.

A warming world will send an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty ($1.90 per day budget or less), of which nearly half will reside in India. Food prices in Sub-Saharan Africa will spike by 12 percent. One in every 25 people, in the poorest (tropical) regions of the world, will be in extreme poverty by 2030. That is an alarming amount of tragedy in 13 years.

Now that we know how global warming affects the poor, we must act.

James Hardison

Photo: Flickr

The Kigali Amendment: A Global Commitment to Cutting HFCs
This month in Kigali, Rwanda, nearly 200 nations agreed to a new deal to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, specifically hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The parameters of the deal have the potential to guide countries to preventing up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the year 2100 and outline a global commitment to cutting HFCs.

HFCs were first used in the 1980s as a replacement for other ozone exhausting gasses. Over time, however, the danger of these gasses has grown. HFCs are used in appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners, and sales among these types of products have soared in growing economies like China and India.

HFC gasses are critically dangerous to the global environment and as a greenhouse gas can be up to 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. If the deadlines in the plan are followed, the deal is expected to reduce the use HFCs by 85 percent by 2045.

The Kigali Amendment was made as an addition to the Montreal Protocol, which came into effect in 1989 and aims at reducing the production and consumption of detrimental substances to the earth’s ozone layer.

A statement on the Kigali Amendment from the White House said, “While diplomacy is never easy, we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure and free than the one that was left for us.”

The deal includes the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China, and separates nations into groups with various deadlines for reducing the use of HFC gas. The U.S. and other Western developed countries want quick action in phasing out HFCs while nations such as India will be allowed a bit more time for their economies to grow and industries to adjust to the new requirements.

The U.S. will start taking action by 2019 and more than 100 developing countries, China included, will start to cut back by 2024 when HFC consumption levels are expected to be at their highest.

The deal puts the promises made at the Paris climate change conference last year into effect. In December 2015, 195 countries met in Paris and agreed to the first ever universal and legally binding climate change deal. Now, the Kigali Amendment is holding these countries accountable for their promises.

U.N. Environment Chief Erik Solhiem stated in reference to the Kigali deal, “Last year in Paris, we promised to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change. Today, we are following through on that promise.”

This global commitment to cutting HFCs shows dedication and acknowledgment to current issues relating to global warming and climate change. The requirements of the legally binding treaty have the potential to considerably reduce the damaging effects of greenhouse gas emission.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Paris Agreement

The United States and China, the two biggest global carbon emitting countries, have ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement. On Sep. 3, 2016 both U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping submitted their plans to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The ratification was announced in advance of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting being held in Hangzhou, China.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris was signed and adopted by 195 parties in December 2015. It asks the nations “to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future.” This agreement has come to be known as the Paris Agreement.

The UNFCCC in December 2015 saw a global compact to slash greenhouse gases and keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius. However, with the U.N.’s weather agency reporting that 2016 is on course to be the warmest year on record since records have been kept; it is already being questioned whether this goal can be reached. With the U.S. and China ratifying their agreements, and the U.N. Climate week in late September, a surge of ratifications is hoped for and expected.

U.N. Chief Ban said in a ceremony for the two countries: “With China and the United States making this historic step, we now have 26 countries who have ratified and 39 percent of global emissions accounted for…” It is hoped that with these two countries leading the way, more countries will follow suit. For the agreement to take effect, 29 more countries, which represent 16 percent of worldwide emissions, need to ratify their agreements. Once 55 countries that account for 55 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted have signed ratifications and filed them with the U.N., the agreement will go into force within 30 days.

The four countries with the highest emissions are China with 20.09 percent, the U.S. with 17.9 percent, Russia with 7.5 percent and India with 4.1 percent. The signing of the agreement was convened by U.N. Chief Ban in New York in April 2016. Country representatives signed the agreement before ratification. Once a country has signed the Paris Agreement, “it is obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat its object and purpose. The next step, ratification, signifies a country’s intent to be legally bound to the terms of the treaty at the international level.”

Before China and the U.S. ratified the Paris Agreement, only 24 other countries had done so and their emission impact on the globe represented only one percent. Now that these two large countries and large carbon emitters have ratified their agreements with the U.N., there is a bigger likelihood that the Paris Agreement will be set into place before the end of the year which is when it was expected. The agreement may even be enacted before November’s U.N. Climate Summit in Marrakesh.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

Wind Turbines: New Direction for Paris Agreement
With the objective of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and fostering sustainable development, the Paris Agreement was developed to reduce carbon emission levels globally.

The agreement was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 where 175 countries signed the global action plan at a ceremony in New York.

However, countries must engage in ratification to complete the pledge. Only 19 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement. Ratification involves undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets and enhancing their mitigating efforts to reduce carbon emission.

The agreement moved forward after 55 countries that account for approximately 55 percent of global emissions ratified it. U.S. and China have both agreed to ratify the Paris Agreement this year.

Underdeveloped countries and small islands qualify for ratification by developing and preparing strategies for low greenhouse emission reflecting their circumstances.

With the latest hopes to replace oil with wind turbines to lower greenhouse gasses, John Coequyt, director of the Sierra Club’s federal and international climate campaigns, declared that the Paris agreement included “all the core elements that the environmental community wanted.”

Countries that have pledged to the agreement are solely responsible for their emission level as the agreement seeks to limit global warming to 2°C by the year 2020.

The Paris Agreement has also contributed to the boost in wind turbine sale which has proven to be a lucrative venture. “The COP21 agreement will provide the basis for additional public support and financing in growth regions, which should offset this development in the longer term,” said Moody’s Managing Director of Corporate Finance, Matthias Hellstern

The EU and other developing countries have agreed to continue to support environmentally friendly practices and positive impacts on climate change. The Paris Agreement has paved the way for wind turbines to be the main source of energy for developing countries and the solution to curbing high urban pollution levels.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

In developed nations, vast annual quantities of greenhouse gas emissions are causing global authorities on climate change to be seriously concerned. The World Resources Institute reported in 2014 that the biggest offenders are China, the U.S. and the E.U.

However, the people who will be most adversely affected by the impacts of climate change will not be developed nations. The real damage will lie between global warming and the world’s poor.

In March 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was held to discuss the growing number of concerns surrounding global warming.

Riding on the coattails of the December United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 20th annual Conference of the Parties, the report was the result of one of the most thorough data collecting and analyzing efforts in climate research history.

The report drew a tragic connection between global warming and the world’s poor, asserting that the most vulnerable, least prepared, most exposed and impoverished communities will be hit the hardest.

A particularly dangerous side effect of global warming will be the destabilization of growing cycles, disrupting and reducing crop yields. This decrease in crop yields drives up the price of food, putting more people in danger of malnourishment.

Another concerning connection between global warming and the world’s poor is that underdeveloped regions are less resilient to weather-related disasters, whether it be drought or hurricane. This lack of weather resistance in a community makes it more vulnerable to an increase in poverty.

The report also found that as resources become tighter the risk of conflict rises. Historically, as food shortages occur, food riots and clashes between farmers and herders over land use, as well as unrest about where and how water should be used, skyrocket.

However, Chris Field, a co-chair of the 2014 U.N. report, said adapting to more sustainable and climate-friendly practices can lessen the blow of climate change.

“Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried. Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation,” Field said. “This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.”

Dr. Vicente Barros, who chaired the report, added, “Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.”

Jordan Connell

Sources: UN, World Bank, WRI, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

The topics of global warming and climate change have been discussed in great length in recent times. The effects of both of these trends have an especially significant impact on those living in poverty. Here are some ways climate change impacts poverty by making life more difficult for those already experiencing poor conditions:

Climate change causes more extreme weather. For instance, floods or hurricanes can result in damage to homes and land. Displacement is especially an issue in developing countries when natural disasters strike because victims may flee to safer areas, but are unable to return to their homes.

According to the Brookings Institute, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people have been displaced by natural disasters every year. Relocating impoverished communities means that efforts to end poverty slow down and become more complicated, especially in developing countries.

Many impoverished communities live in rural areas where agriculture is their source of sustenance. Climate change can cause droughts, famines and loss of livestock, which causes food and water to become scarce.

A survey of households in India’s Andhra found that in a 25-year span, 12 percent of households became more impoverished, and 44 percent of them cited the weather as the cause.

The poor rural farmers who produce the bare minimum needed to feed their families have few resources as it is. Climate change will lead to more undernourished households.

Sanitation and Water Supply
Climate change jeopardizes the availability of clean drinking water. For example, severe flooding causes damage to drinking water infrastructures, which often take weeks to repair. Climate change also creates an environment where diseases are easily spread. In 2007, floods in Bangladesh resulted in the widespread contamination of tubewells.

More countries are enforcing climate policies in order to slow down global warming. These strategies include policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carbon pricing to reduce emission and phasing out fossil fuel emissions.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization Director-General stated: “The evidence is overwhelming: climate change endangers human health. Solutions exist and we need to act decisively to change this trajectory.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: World Bank, Brookings, WHO
Photo: Pixabay

Heat_Wave in_Karachi
On June 20, 2015, a heat wave struck the city of Karachi. Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan and is home to about 20 million residents. The heat wave that struck had disastrous consequences for many of the residents of the city, killing about 1,300 people and sending scores to hospitals.

Daytime temperatures in Karachi climbed to about 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest that it has been in Pakistan since 2000. The effects of the heat wave were also compounded by the fact that it occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when people fast until sunset and when eating and drinking during daylight is forbidden by Pakistani law.

What’s more, many residents of Karachi did not have power or access to water during the week of extremely high temperatures. Power cuts in Pakistan are common, but the federal government and the main private power company for Karachi, K-Electric, assured the citizens of Karachi that they would make sure that there was power during the heat wave for when Pakistanis broke their fast at sunset. However, they failed to deliver on their promises, and many died due to the lack of air conditioning, water and fans.

Hospitals filled up quickly, with over 65,000 people visiting them for help and to seek shelter. The hospitals had to rely on donations and volunteers for many of their supplies. Some patients were not able to be treated by doctors, and their families were forced to attempt to take care of them while waiting for assistance.

A human body’s normal core temperature is around 38 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit). When our body temperatures rise to 39-40 degrees Celsius, fatigue begins to impact the body and the brain starts to slow the muscles down in order to cool the body. Above 41 degrees Celsius, our body cells deteriorate, chemical processes are affected and the body’s organs start to fail. This heat wave in Karachi affected the homeless the most, and also had a larger impact on poor families, many of whom did not have access to the air conditioning they desperately needed. Older people also suffered disproportionately.

The largest morgue in Karachi, the Edhi Morgue, normally has the capacity to hold about 200 people. It was soon overflowing due to the number of people killed by the heat, and received over 900 bodies in the eight days of the heat wave. Many families who visited hoping that the morgue would help them to bury their dead had to be turned away, and cemeteries in Karachi ran out of room in which to bury the dead, leading to mass graves and burials.

Pakistan has suffered from heat waves before, but this heat wave has led to an abnormally large number of casualties. Some attribute that to the fact that the heat wave occurred during Ramadan, while others blame pollution and climate change for extreme temperatures. These, combined with power outages and water shortages, most likely led to the massive casualties that occurred during the heat wave.

Temperatures have begun to normalize once again, but the residents of Karachi are still suffering from the consequences of the heat wave. In order to help those in Karachi, people have been donating to the Edhi Foundation (http://edhi.org/), which runs an ambulance service and the Edhi Morgue and is working to ensure that those who have died due to the heat wave receive a proper burial.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, New York Times, CNN, International Business Times, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Edhi Foundation
Photo: Today Online