Climate Change: Humanity’s ticking time bomb

By Mushfik Khan

Climate change. I’m sure that most people reading this have heard those words before, but are we as aware or concerned of the causes and impacts of climate change as we should be?  I mean… when was the last time you saw it trending on Twitter?

Firstly, it is important to understand what ‘climate change’ actually means as a concept.

Earth’s climate has been changing for thousands of years and has remained relatively stable whilst doing so- as can be seen from the graph below. Therefore, it is of no surprise that it will continue to change. The thing which concerns scientists around the world is the rapid rate at which the earth’s climate has been changing in recent years.

Climate Change graph

For centuries, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere did not surpass the mark labelled with an arrow on the graph. However since the Industrial Revolution, human activity through the burning of fossil fuels has been increasing the level of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an  unstable rate.

Studies by NASA have shown that the increasing amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere are ramping up the natural greenhouse effect, causing more heat to become trapped and therefore raising the planet’s surface temperature. It is stated that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, this may not seem significant but if it continues to increase any further, it will have devastating consequences for all life forms on earth.

We are already witnessing the impacts of climate change around the globe. In recent days the southern states of the USA have been hit with 3 category 5 hurricanes which have become more destructive as a result of climate change. Furthermore, large parts of East Africa are suffering extreme droughts, many areas around the world have experienced record breaking heatwaves and extremes in precipitation patterns.

Climate Change.jpg

Those are only a few of the effects of climate change. It is clear to see that we can no longer ignore the realness of climate change, it is time for nations to come together and figure out solutions and ways to prevent the impacts of climate change from growing worse. This was what the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’ aimed to do, to bring all of the world’s nations into a single agreement to tackle climate change and one of the key elements of the agreement was to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius. However, despite the agreement being dubbed as ‘historic’, the President of the United States has refused to partake in the agreement, he has already voiced his controversial opinions on Twitter, claiming that climate change does not exist and that it is all a hoax. Without the United States as party to the agreement there is no chance of it succeeding. As the world’s wealthiest nation, it’s funds are vital to support developing nations to leap straight from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and to set an example to other nations about the seriousness of the issue.

Despite the international stage looking murky on the topic of climate change, I can safely say from the research I have done that Wales as a nation has certainly been trying.

So far, the Welsh Government has passed two acts which both recognise the central importance of climate change. The first one is the ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015’. This act requires public bodies across Wales to think in a more long term and sustainable way by setting seven ‘well-being goals’ which the public bodies must take into consideration when making decisions. Furthermore, ‘The Environment (Wales) Act 2016’ emphasises sustainable management of natural resources and requires public authorities to maintain and enhance biodiversity, it also puts an obligation on welsh ministers to meet targets for greenhouse gas emissions from Wales by calling for a reduction of at least 80% of emissions by 2050.

Clearly there is a lot more work that needs to be done globally regarding climate change but time is running out and we as the future generation need to try our best to do as much as we can to ensure that the planet that we call home now is not an apocalyptic scene in the future.

For more information on what you can do to save our planet, check out the links below:

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/

https://www.wwf.org.uk/

 

 

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Key issues for the UN Climate Change Conference 2017

Flood.jpg

The UN Climate Change Conference takes place on 6-17th November in Bonn, Germany and will be presided over by the Government of Fiji.

The location of the conference, the Fiji Islands, are among a number of nations around the world that are at risk of flooding as a result of higher sea levels, due to climate change. But what are the some of the issues that will be discussed at COP23 Fiji?

Flooding of low-lying islands

A rise in global temperatures results in the melting of glaciers, which contribute to sea level rise. This means low lying islands around the world are at high risk of flooding, with many inhabitants of these islands being required to migrate to higher ground, for good.

One report, written by the Environmental Research Letters journal studied the impacts of sea level rise on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The report found that:

‘at least eleven islands across the northern Solomon Islands have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion.’

This has a profound impact on the welfare of local inhabitants. According to an IPCC report, the risk of flooding has brought ‘social problems of economic insecurity, inadequate water supplies, and lower health standards.’ As a result, local inhabitants have had to relocate either to higher ground, or leave the islands completely. The impacts of forced migration are wide ranging: it can cause psychological stress and trauma, cause the separation of families, and can result in migrants losing their traditional culture in favour of adopting their host country’s culture. This can leave them feeling marginalised and alone.

The inequality of climate change

According to a study by Oxfam, findings indicate that “the poorest half of the global population is responsible for only 10 percent of total global emissions while nearly 50 percent can be attributed to the wealthiest 10 percent.”

This inequality is mostly out of a difference in lifestyles: the wealthier a person gets, the more the quality of their lifestyles improve. Moreover, the presence of large scale industrial centres in richer countries enhances their part in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

It is important that the UN COP23 address the rising inequalities of climate change, which can have generational impacts.

The United States’ Position on Climate Change

Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the United States’ position on climate change has changed, with many questioning the nation’s commitment to fighting the issue.

This issue was further intensified following the US’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which sets targets for nations to lower their carbon dioxide emissions. As the United States is the second biggest global contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, the issue of addressing its role in fighting climate change is imperative.

In the journal Nature, Thomas Stocker, former co-chair of climate science for the IPCC, stated that “Trump’s decision to ignore scientific facts of climate disruption and the high risks of climate-change impacts is irresponsible not only towards his own people but to all people and life on this planet.”

Overall, as climate change continues to bring varying impacts to regions all around the world, it is hoped that this year’s Climate Change Conference will shed light on some of the issues faced, and allow the space for different countries to devise strategies on how best to respond to them.

Transforming our World: The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda

Mark Bulmer, 2015 © Some rights reserved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://bit.ly/20s863K

Mark Bulmer, 2015 © Some rights reserved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://bit.ly/20s863K

Melanie Hawthorne, WCIA Volunteer

The United Nations Sustainable Development summit in New York on 25 -27 September 2015, agreed to 17 goals and 169 targets that build upon and develop from the eight Millennium Goals (MDG).  Broader in scope, the 15 year strategy of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) will include all 180 nations (both wealthy and poor) and not just focus on the developing nations as previously targeted by the MDG’s.

On November 4-6th, the DCF Uganda High-level Symposium will provide a first opportunity for a range of stakeholders to discuss development cooperation of the 2030 SD Agenda and explore ways to motivate, support and further shape cooperation as a critical means of implementation.

Initially, attention will be placed on what this means in terms of challenges and opportunities for development cooperation in Africa and the Symposium will focus on two overarching questions:

  1. How will the UN adapt development cooperation policies and interventions for implementing the SDGs?
  2. How will the UN monitor and review the impact of development cooperation in advancing the new sustainable development agenda.

The Symposium aims to bring to the table key issues related to ownership of the new global agenda, and will produce concrete evidence based policy guidance to be able to put into practice at international, regional, national and local level as part of the broader global partnership for sustainable development.

The report will be prepared in preparation for the 2016 meeting of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), the UN platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and will be the first HLPF after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Forum is expected to start effectively delivering on its mandates to provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the Sustainable Development Agenda’s implementation and will meet from Monday, 11 July, to Wednesday, 20 July 2016, under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

*In order to informally contribute to the reflection, Major Groups and other Stakeholders were invited to provide their views and comments by completing an online questionnaire by 15 November 2015. Responses received will be made available on the website.

The Wales We Want

blog2As nations across the globe get to grips on how they will implement their own bottom up v’s top down policies through the framework guidelines, development cooperation is viewed as the main pillar of the global partnership for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Wales has a high profile in sustainable development and is recognised as being one of the first nations to take sustainable development seriously.

The Sustainable Development Charter managed by Cynnal Cymru/Sustain Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government encourages private, public and third sector organisations in Wales to become more resilient by using the principles of sustainable development – of improving decision making based on the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. Over 340 organisations have signed up on a voluntary basis and as more continue to do so as sustainable development continues to climb the agenda.

In April 2015, The Welsh Government passed into law The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act  that aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, and strengthen governance arrangements within public bodies to ensure that present needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations.

The legislation will place a statutory duty upon public bodies in Wales to adopt sustainable development as the central organising principle upon which all other organisational decisions are made and provide evidence on how this is implemented in practice.

The legislation identifies 7 key goals to improve the well-being of Wales:

  1. A Prosperous Wales
  2. A Resilient Wales
  3. A Healthier Wales
  4. A More equal Wales
  5. A Wales of Cohesive communities
  6. A Wales of Vibrant Culture and Thriving Welsh language
  7. A Globally responsible Wales

Delivered through Public Service Boards (PSB’s) and local wellbeing plans for all local authorities in order to improve wellbeing for people and their communities, Public bodies in Wales were asked to respond to the detailed draft guidance that aims to enable government bodies and agencies in responding to and complying with the statutory duties they are under as a result of the Act.   All public bodies are scheduled to commence statutory reporting on wellbeing indicators as from April 2017

These public Bodies include: Welsh Ministers, Local Authorities, Local Health Boards, Public Health Wales NHS Trust, Velindre NHS Trust, National Parks Authorities, Fire and Rescue Authorities, National Resources Wales, Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCW), Arts Council of Wales (ACW), Sports Council of Wales (SCW), National Library and the National Museum and Galleries Wales (NMGW).

The consultation documents closes for submission on the 16th November 2015

Alongside the Consultation the proposed national indicators,  How do you measure a nation’s progress? will measure and capture wellbeing statistics in Wales and the deadline for consultation is the 19th January 2016.

Picture Hope in the Thorns (2007), Dan Foy © Some rights reserved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://bit.ly/1WuB834

Climate Change – as viewed from Malaysia

Aaditya Rajaseharan

A flood-stricken family in Kota Tinggi.

Malaysia is a small but compact country located in South East Asia. It is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia, the more urbanised region of the country, which includes the world famous Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Petronas Twin Towers and Sepang Formula One Circuit; and Eastern Malaysia which not only includes Sabah and Sarawak, two of the largest states in Malaysia, but also those that are populated by native Malaysians like the Kadazandusun, Kelabit and Ibanese people, who still practice their traditional beliefs today. Major cities like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu have very much become the soul of Eastern Malaysia.

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Negotiating Climate Change: global to local

Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor and UN Messenger of Peace, addresses the opening of the Climate Summit 2014.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor and UN Messenger of Peace, addresses the opening of the Climate Summit 2014.

Last weekend and early this week, two big events on climate change action took place in New York. Yesterday, September 23rd, the UN Climate Change Summit took place on the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 122 heads of government attended. However, a few key leaders were missing such as those from China, India and Germany.[1] Two days earlier, the streets of New York and other major cities across the world were flooded with the People’s Climate March which the organisers call “a weekend to bend history.” In Wales, the next meeting of the Climate Change Commission for Wales is aiming to move the climate change policy refresh of the Welsh government further. An ideal occasion to take stock of what is happening.

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That Humans caused Climate Change IS a FACT! (It’s Official)

Secretary-General Witnesses Impacts of Climate Change

“Human influence on the climate system is clear”, this is the reality we must all accept. The recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) fifth assessment report has given us all the clearest answer yet on the nature and cause of climate change. There are some interesting and powerful headlines that have come out of it. There are of course, and will always be some doubters about the reality of climate change, or to what extent it is Anthropogenic (caused by humans). However the report is clear. “Scientists are 95% certain that humans are the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950’s” Let us not linger on a 5% chance that humans are not responsible as representing some sort of legitimate doubt. It does not. In science there is always doubt and never a 100% certainty, this is a key and vital attribute of science. However, climate change is not an academic and intellectual preoccupation of a few scientists in a lab. It is the pressing issue of our age, dare I say, of any age.

The science can now be considered “unequivocal”, and we can be sure that global warming will result in “changes in all aspects of the climate system”. The IPCC has called for “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”. Why is it important that we tackle this issue especially if as predicted by the sceptics there are such high cost to global development and prosperity (which the green sector would argue is wrong)? There is a simple answer given in the IPCC report. Climate change interferes with “the two primary resources of humans and ecosystems, land and water”. It is a threat not just to our prosperity but to our very existence. We, as humans, often think we are the masters of nature, but we live by its grace and favour. If we do not change our course we are heading towards catastrophe that no level of economic development will defend against.

Beyond the long term impact of climate change on our very existence there are more immediate issues. The impact on the vulnerable and often poor peoples of this world is a very real concern and has already begun. Global warming is “leading to changes in regional weather patterns, with extreme events on the increase”. This can be seen in all parts of the world. Another effect that is having immediate impact is seen in sub-Saharan Africa. Drought and desertification is a pressing concern which is greatly increased by global warming. It “adversely impacts on health and food security”, which it appears, affects women disproportionately bring with it questions of gender equality. As is so often the case with such perils, the most vulnerable people in the world and in society pay the price for the excesses of others. There is also major concern around the issue of sea level rises and the impact this will have on the low lying islands of the world. Indeed the IPCC projects more and faster sea level rise by the end of the 21st century. Representatives of these islands recently took to the podium at the United Nations calling for “international support to mitigate the perils”. As was pointed out, these islands and their citizens have contributed least to the climate change problem but suffer the most. We, as part of the developed world must shoulder our “moral, ethical and historical responsibilities”.

The United Nations is doing what it can with regards to these problems including the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) which aims “to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation…” Giving those countries affected by climate change a platform to air their grievances is also a vital tool. There are also international agreements to aid the poorest countries mitigate and adapt to climate change via funds and technology transfer. However, these actions will come to naught if the international community does not deal with the underlying cause of the problem, greenhouse gas emissions.

All these effects of climate change have associated human rights issues which are far reaching but still little understood. Indeed there is much academic debate regarding the impact of climate change on human rights. This debate includes how to interpret the responsibility of individual countries, companies and the international community to those whose rights are violated. However, the effects of global warming on the resources of food, water and land will make achieving human dignity for all and the advancement of human rights (a vital part of the United Nations charter) an increasingly difficult proposition. Anthropogenic climate change with all its possible effects is our legacy and one we must acknowledge and act upon, now.

Michael Stagg

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24292615

http://www.ipcc.ch/

http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5-SPM_Approved27Sep2013.pdf

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46027&Cr=general+debate&Cr1=#.UlZycxAgp0U

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46154&Cr=general+debate&Cr1=&Kw1=drought+&Kw2=&Kw3=#.UlZ0UhAgp0U

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45863&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=&Kw1=drought+&Kw2=&Kw3=#.UlZ20BAgp0U

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2013/10/what-the-new-ipcc-report-says-about-sea-level-rise/

http://www.carbontrust.com/news/2013/09/carbon-trust-summary-of-ipcc-5th-assessment-report

America’s hypocrisy – was Agent Orange a chemical weapon?

Food and Agriculture: Viet Nam

Nearly 40 years on from the devastating proxy war in Vietnam, the easternmost country on the Indochina peninsula is still plagued with the consequences of war. These are economic, social and medical. These medical consequences largely stem from the effects of chemicals used during warfare by the Americans. The total lack of concern for the effects of chemical use in Vietnam leads me to question their moral platform in current debates such as with regards to Syria.

America actively embraced chemicals for their own use during the Vietnam War, indiscriminately pouring 20 million gallons of defoliant Agent Orange over communities of civilians and whole swathes of forest and farmland. It destroyed crops and sentenced generations of Vietnamese to congenital birth defects and horrific disfigurement. The aim of this operation was to flush out the guerrilla fighters, the Communist Viet Cong, from their forest hideaways which proved to be a major thorn in the side of the American military. The aim of destroying farmland was to force urbanisation, driving the rural communities that formed the basis of Viet Cong support to US held cities. However, little thought was given to the health and lives of civilians. This begs the question, is the dogged pursuit of military intervention in Syria by a state that refuses to accept its own history of chemical weapon use and responsibility to its victims, morally acceptable?

It is estimated by Vietnam Red Cross that around 150,000 Vietnamese children are affected by birth defects due to dioxin, found in Agent Orange. America has refused compensation for Vietnam and claim these figures are unrealistic and exaggerate the effects of dioxin, despite doling out millions of dollars in an out of court settlement for US soldiers and personnel who were responsible for deploying the Agent Orange and providing free healthcare for a wide range of illnesses believed to be due to exposure to the herbicide. Yes, the Vietnamese Red Cross is possibly giving figures that are too high but it is difficult to argue that the problem does not exist at all. Although The US Supreme Court has dismissed a case by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, arguing that at the time of its use the American Government were unaware of its poisonous effect on humans and that the manufacturers had no control over its use by the government and by extension can enjoy sovereign immunity from litigation, it does not alter the fact that dioxins are known poisons and the one included in Agent Orange is particularly nasty. The US can deny responsibility all they like with Supreme Court decisions backing them up but this does not dismiss the claims that the areas in which Agent Orange was deployed have far higher rates of birth defects than many other places.

The majority of evidence for Agent Orange causing higher than usual rates of birth defects is obviously disputed by the United States of America. This should come as no surprise. The rulings by the Supreme Court in America cemented America’s standpoint and thus, while President Obama condemns the impunity in the Middle East, America is enjoying impunity also due to its status as superpower. In 2005 the a number of courts denied a lawsuit stating there were no grounds due to Agent Orange not being considered a poison in international law at the time of its use, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. As with every controversial issue there are studies on both sides that confirm or deny the effects of chemicals used by the Americans during the Vietnam war but it is with incredulity that I read of the double standards of the US. The Department of Veterans Affairs, since 1991, offers free medical care for recognised illnesses caused by exposure to Agent Orange and dioxins; this is tantamount to admittance of the effects of Agent Orange. Yet it denies that there is any negative health impact in Vietnam, this must mean the Vietnamese biologically immune to poison. Of course.

A UK based charity, ‘Facing the World’, provides life changing craniofacial surgery for children with severe facial deformities from poor and disadvantaged countries where children cannot receive the care they need. One of the biggest successes of this charity has been the Vietnam Project where a team of surgeons have collaborated with Danang General Hospital in Vietnam to provide a training scheme, literature and a telemedicine link with London for local doctors to enable them to provide craniofacial surgery themselves. This is due to the extremely high incidence of deformity within Vietnam where there is stringent belief that Agent Orange is the cause of continued deformity in children. Although the work is in extremely high demand, the charity can only help on average 100 children per year across the world. The Vietnam Project is doing fantastic work in a country abandoned by those who arguably caused the problem. The superpower that is the United States of America denies responsibility for the children affected and denies them compensation that could improve their quality of life. When it comes to this issue doubt is cast on their status as defenders of humanity. See the link below for more information.

My question is whether the United States of America is getting away with impunity in the face of widespread injury to civilians due to the use of chemicals in a place it had no reason to be or whether it was a justifiable act in the course of war and the claims of the Vietnamese are exaggerated?

 

Bex Dunn

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3798581.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/227467.stm

http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/diseases.asp

http://www.iadllaw.org/en/node/482

http://facingtheworld.net/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23632245