Fr Shay writes on climate change and human rights

 If somebody is offering you as beach front home for give away prices, it will be because of global warming and climate changes, or the crash of the world property and housing markets. Both are man made and greed driven. Both are catastrophic events for the poor who are least able to cope with natural disasters and now face factory closures and a world economy in recession. Food prices are racing to an all time high and malnutrition is spreading like a plague.

Global warming due to the excessive emissions of industrial CO2, the destruction of the tropical rain forests and the release of methane from the melting permafrost of Siberia is melting the Ice Mountains of the Arctic and Greenland and huge blocks of Antarctica. The inevitable result is more water in the oceans that rise to cover our precious beaches and coastal lands. Good-bye to millions of beach houses, fishing villages, salt ponds, rice growing deltas and the homes of millions.

There are other consequences too. Millions of displaced people will struggle for food, water and living space and migrate west to the lands of low populations and high surplus food production. This will cause more conflict and even wars. Sounds like a Biblical prophecy of doom and gloom? It is the coming reality based on the indisputable scientific facts gathered over the past twenty years and even before and we are fast reaching a tipping point, the point of no return. When the process cannot be slowed or halted. Global warming will accelerate as one threatening change contributes to an even greater one. A threatening spiral of disasters have prompted law makers from developing nations to meet in Manila this October and consider what can be done to be better prepared for the worst.

Sen. Loren Legarda, co-convener of the meeting called on the rich nations to help prepare the developing nations to be ready to cope with the rapidly approaching "cycle of catastrophe and tragedy. The declaration said "Industrialized countries have a historical responsibility for climate change and are morally obliged to financially and technologically assist developing countries in their efforts to reduce their vulnerability and adapt to its consequences, while reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions, it said. According to OneWorld, a UK charity, "Research by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development shows that the 100 countries most vulnerable to climate change together account for just 3.2% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

So once again it is the poor who are suffering for the irresponsibility of the rich and will continue to do so. The effects of global warming will cause them untold hardship, deprivation and great social upheavals. The wealthy nations that are causing the problem in the first place have a grave responsibility to alleviate these consequences.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has taken up this issue of social injustice caused by climate change and is examining the relations between climate change and the violation of human rights. Kate Raworth has produced a report for Oxfam a UK development and relief organization that says "Climate change was first seen as a scientific problem, then an economic one. Now it is becoming a matter of international justice," she wrote.

There is no legal way as yet for the poor nations to challenge these polluters and destroyers of the environmental furnace. There may have to be a special international court of climate change settlements established to hold the polluters to account. Until then we have to continue to lobby and campaign for the rich industrial nations to set the goal of an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by the year 2050 and not settle for the lower 50% cut they envisage. In the Philippine Archipelago millions are vulnerable to the rise in global temperature and the rise in ocean levels will cover islands and wipe out coastal villages. Now is the time to establish a global fund that can meet this challenge. We can all do something positive that will help make this a cleaner and better, and hopefully, less polluted world it is.

Fr Shay Cullan is a Columban parish priest working in the Philippines. He also runs the Preda Center, For more information see:

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