Human Rights and Climate Change

I attended the Human Rights Council session on “Human Rights and Climate Change” recently.

The session took the form of a short input from a range of experts on different aspects of the issue and was followed by responses and questions from representatives of member states of the UN.

I was struck by how much agreement existed between all the countries whose representatives spoke – and it was a broad cross-section of the UN.

All took for granted the reality of climate change, agreed that it was the most serious threat the global community faces and that concerted action is urgently required.

All acknowledged the serious impact the issue was having on their respective countries at present and warned of the dire consequences of inaction. Many even seemed to assume climate change was already too late to reverse and that efforts should be focussed on adaptation rather than mitigation.

Of course the developing countries were strong in pointing out (quite fairly it seems to me) that the developed world has a responsibility to lead the way in addressing this issue since they are the one’s responsible for the emissions that have led to the problem. It is the poorer countries who are bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change at present despite having contributed least to the problem.

I found that this fundamental agreement between all countries to be in stark contrast with the impression given in much of the media. Many articles and comments given prominence in the media media seem to suggest it is still an open question as to whether climate change is occurring at all and gives the impression that the scientific community remains divided on the issue.

In fact, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the world stands on the brink of an enormous catastrophe which can only be averted by immediate, drastic action.

As the latest report issued by the US Global Change Research Program makes clear: Global warming is manmade. It’s irrefutable. And it’s occurring a lot faster than we thought.

Perhaps it is because the media has a vested interest in controversy it likes to attempt to keep the debate alive? Perhaps it derives from a misguided idea of maintaining a ‘balance’. The reality however is that the debate is over and denial and delay are no longer options. Now is the time for action.

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