Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The most urgent threat facing poor people in the developing world

This latest confirmation that the global climate change is already well underway makes me question the existence of cosmic justice. Once again we learn that the poorest of the poor are suffering from rising sea level and other impacts resulting from the industrial world's infusion of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. A just-released UN study reports on the forced migration in the Philippines -- a phenomenon that is expected to expand in numbers and geographic scope.

This news has not translated into the kind of outrage or heightened sense of urgency that certainly would be the case if those affected were those responsible for the problem. Unfortunately if the shoe were on the other foot, forced migrations in developed nations most likely would result in hostile takeovers of less developed nations. One way or the other, the poor would be victims.

In 1969 Bucky Fuller published "Utopia or Oblivion: Prospects for Humanity". He called for a geosocial design science revolution that would create a world that works for everyone. That, in fact, is humanity's only option for success: It has to be everyone or it will be no one. (GW)

Rendered homeless by climate change

By Imelda V. Abaño
Business Mirror
June 14, 2009

BONN, Germany—It has already started. People are literally living on the edge, communities in coastal areas are already adapting and people are forced to leave their homes, with more than 200 million more expected to follow as evidence of climate change mounts. This scenario is already happening in the Philippines.

In the decades to come, Asia, home to more than half the world’s 6.3 billion people, will lurch from one climate extreme to another. Extreme weather caused by global warming has already forced many to flee their homes. A UN study released recently said the situation is going to get worse.

Negotiations were attended last week by more than 180 nations to hammer out a new agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, set to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Rising sea levels, stronger cyclones, the loss of soil moisture, more intense precipitation and flooding, droughts, melting glaciers, and changing snow-melt patterns are among the problems humanity will face, said Dr. Koko Warner, Head of Section of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and lead author of the report.

“Forced migration is now the most urgent threat facing poor people in the developing world. Already, changes are being felt in Asia but worse is likely to come especially in low land areas in Asia,” Warner told BusinessMirror. “In this all-too-plausible worst-case scenario, large populations would be forced to migrate as a matter of immediate survival.”

Warner said most people will seek shelter in their own countries while others cross borders. Some displacement and migration may be prevented through the implementation of adaptation measures. However, poorer countries are underequipped to support widespread adaptation.

Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the small island states have the largest populations at risk of becoming climate refugees. Asia is vulnerable because of its highly populated, low-lying coastal regions and high vulnerability to tropical cyclones, Warner added.

The new report entitled “In Search of Shelter: Mapping the effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement,” said that Mexico and the Central American countries are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change—both in terms of less rainfall and more extreme weather like hurricanes and floods. Rainfall in some areas is expected to decline by as much as 50 percent by 2080, rendering many local livelihoods unviable and dramatically raising the risk of chronic hunger.

A new security threat

The consequences for almost all aspects of development and human security could be devastating, warned Charles Ehrhart, CARE International’s Climate Change Coordinator and one of the report’s authors. He adds that there may also be substantial implications for political stability.

“Societies affected by climate change may find themselves locked into a downward spiral of ecological degradation, towards the bottom of which social safety nets collapse while tensions and violence rise,” Ehrhart said.

The international community must begin substantial discussions about how to realize its duties to protect migrants and displaced persons under conditions of radical environmental change, Ehrhart added.

“Migration needs to be recognized as not being negative per se, but a sometimes necessary response to the negative impacts of climate change. The policy decision we make today will determine whether migration can be a choice, a proactive adaptation measure, or whether migration and displacement is the tragic proof of our collective failure to provide better alternatives,” Warner said.

Warner said researchers interviewed more than 2,000 migrants in various parts of the world and mapped climate change in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Central America, the Sahel, glacier zones, the Ganges, Nile and Mekong deltas, Tuvalu and the Maldives, among other areas.

The report was written by the UNU, CARE International and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (Ciesin). It was funded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Bank.

It recommends that all countries avoid climate- changing activities, plan for human security, invest in resilient livelihoods, prioritize the world’s most vulnerable populations and include migration and adaptation strategies in future planning. 


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