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US Recantation from the Pleasures of Paris Agreement: Implications and Imperatives for Climate Human Rights

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he technology of tectonic torment, oceanic oppression and climate contumacy of the world wolfs has inflicted indelible scars upon the climate. On the occasion of World Environment Day (WED) on June 05, 2017, We, the Nations of the World, got wedded with the climate contumacy of the US that has, ultimately, decimated the dreams and desires and had meted out the global grief to the humanity.

In 2015, at Paris—a city known for its pleasures—a utopia was created only to be destroyed later. The Paris Agreement has been regarded as the biggest step ever collectively accomplished by the global community to alleviate the catastrophic impact of climate change on the only planet blessed with essentials of sustainable human existence and survival. However, the history is replete with the instances of US recalcitrant behaviour in international commitments in the areas of preserving environmental ecology and human rights teleology. In this context, America cannot be great again on the decimation of lives of the people of 194 countries of the world in its quest for a Pyrrhic economic growth.

Since the inauguration of the Donald Trump’s presidency in the US, Paris Climate Change Agreement has been a political cynosure only for the wrong reasons. Consequently, US eccentricities after Kyoto Protocol were once again exposed in its latest recantation from Paris Agreement that was formulated as per its whims and megrims as a non-binding and non-penal agreement. It is an act of below the belt diplomacy and political hara-kiri that might derail the Climate Justice peregrination. Now, the comity of civilized nation-states sans US, Syria, and Nicaragua must ponder over the existing contours of the impugned agreement and recalibrate it as a binding pact for the posterity. Because future of 95% people of the world is greater than the 5% population that has adopted a policy of my way is high way deviant to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Climate Change has attained the proportions of an invisible but invincible war unless We, the Nations of the World, believe in the collective, cohesive and corroborative actions based on the global rule of law, global sovereign equality, global common good, global state transparency, global, national accountability and global massy reality. Thus, the climate change is an issue of human rights as it endangers the entire human survival.

The composite cultural heritage of humanity, rummaged and reviewed from the perspectives—socialist or capitalist, spiritualist or materialist, or biblical or individual—cogently convinces that in every human being, person and group there is an irreducible, irrevocable, inalienable, non-negotiable and non-derogable existence of a supreme spirit called “climate human rights” (CHRs). In the denial of CHRs, human dignity is decimated, human duty is divagated, and human civilization takes a step backward. The emblem of humanity on each occasion must fly full mast. The state forces fretting fraternity must be fumigated. The CHRs Odyssey has many vulpine visions, adroit adventures and indentured indulgences and the same has been displayed by the Trump regime. Today, context, content, and currents of CHRs juri-science are pervading all the nationalities beyond its past, present, and future and are on the path of perennial permutation to the World Wide Web of social behavaiour deviant to a confluence of contradictions, conflicts, and clashes. The CHRs jurisprudence sans human hierarchy is the transnational trajectory of understanding climate change.

The human heritage of vintage vision, ancient ancestry, and pristine pursuits must be the congregate of the humanity while understanding the CHRs seriously beyond the future. The classical and contemporary chaos in the cosmos of humanity is escalating at a pace never witnessed before. The concept of CHRs has a history marked by the philosophical paradoxes, political pontifications, and geostrategic considerations. Knowing that history and understanding those paradoxes is the international itinerary which illuminates the state of CHRs today. The global grief springs from the globalization is a complex and controversial phenomenon that ramified, rankled and revisited the concept of CHRs. One of the few certainties is that understanding CHRs seriously will be essential to understanding the world that we live in with the threat to the climate for all times to come.

There are specific terminologies which denote the different stages of climate talks traversing to address the adverse impacts of climate change. Therefore, COP-21 stands for the Conference of the Parties that has been representing the countries who have signed and participated up to the 1992 UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). The COP in Paris is the 21st such conference and known as the Paris Agreement and in French as Accord de Paris within the UNFCCC addressing the climate change issues like greenhouse gases emissions, mitigation, adaptation, and finance commencing in the year 2020. But President Trump has always adopted an exclusivist agenda deviant to the international consensus and priorities. Trump’s anti-climate change policies are based on promoting the exploitation and mining of domestic natural resources such as fossil fuel and coal. Trump has issued an executive order in March 2017 whereunder all rules and regulations prohibiting such expropriations were amended, diluted, and weakened. Moreover, the disputed order has rejected the global standards of carbon pollution in the energy sector and created the impediments for implementing the plans of clean energy, which were directed to mitigate the of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power plants. US recantation from the Paris Climate Change Agreement has meted out a colossal yank to the minimalist initiatives made by the Obama administration. Even before the issuing the controversial order, Trump administration has already cut the grants in the US Federal Budget of all the key programmes for mitigation of Greenhouse Gases emissions. Moreover, all scientific research programmes relating to the climate change studies were also cut to size inter-alia winding up of GCF (Green Climate Fund) and closing the funding the UNFCCC bodies. Primarily, the GCF was created to help and facilitate the developing countries in their fight against the mounting menace of climate change. The US denial and its withdrawal from the COP-21arrangement amount to the betrayal and barbarity having obvious implications for rest of the international community. Therefore, remaining countries should re-calibrate and re-cast COP-21 Agreement and sideline the US in their quest for an equitable global order.

Primarily, COP-21 agreement was envisaged and prepared US lines exclusively as it was, initially, not keen to fulfill all the obligations and it was not ready to attend its part of the problem of climate change. Thus, US have sponsored an agreement that has stipulated minimum responsibility and US has also promised most minimum threshold of emission mitigation. Moreover, US assured the international community to reduce 26-28 percent emissions and bring back the existing emissions levels to the levels of 2005 by the year 2025. But, even if the year 1990 is considered the baseline, then the US would be able to reduce its emissions levels only 13-15 percent by the year 2025, and by the year 2030, it would reduce only 23-27 percent of emissions. However, EU would reduce only 40 percent emissions to the levels of 1990 by the year 2030 because Obama Administration was not keen to get Paris Climate Change Agreement passed by the US Congress. Therefore, Paris agreement has been envisioned and prepared as a voluntary, non-binding, and non-penal arrangement. The US cannot come out of the Paris Agreement by calling it unreasonable and against interests of America. It is, indeed, the fallible and fallacious argument that has undermined the convictions and commitments of 194 countries of the world. These countries had accommodated the flawed and cynical concerns of the US with the only hope that the US would fulfill its obligations under the impugned agreement.

It is, now, axiomatic that the COP-21 Agreement cannot achieve its targets without the full participation of the US Government. It must not be ignored that the US has hugely polluted the environment with impunity. The US is responsible for contributing 21 percent pollution out of the total CO2 in the environment. Presently, the US is the second biggest polluter country in the world and regarding emissions as per capita income it the first country. Therefore, till the US bears its responsibility of achieving its part of emissions targets, then rest of the countries would not be able to accomplish the Paris objectives.

The COP-21 Agreement has been founded on the principle of “upward mobility” accomplishment of mitigation targets of emissions as the treaty forges ahead. It was the central argument that convinced the developing countries to be privy to the Paris Agreement. Now, Trump administration wants to re-calibrate the contours of its contributions under the censured agreement that fundamentally annihilates the core principle of the Paris understanding. Thus, any tinkering with the existing orientation of the COP-21 agreement would destine to make the life of the planet earth dangerous and destructive for sustainable survival in years ahead. The COP-21 agreement has made fiscal provisions whereunder the developed countries have to grant $100 billion to developing countries along with the transfer of technology and other incidental supports to it. But, unfortunately, the US has disturbed the entire roadmap of addressing the dangerous repercussions of climate change with its withdrawal at this juncture. Ultimately, with the US repudiation of this agreement, the developing world must come forward to have a new arrangement excluding the US. Trump regime is impregnated with many obtuse perceptions relating to the developing countries, and President Donald Trump has to make a discernible choice between perception-based governance and policy-based governance. Now, the time has come for the developing countries to ponder over how to attend international challenges in some fields by minimizing their dependence on the US. The humanity of 194 countries and their CHRs cannot be treated as a pawn in the hands of the US and at the altar of its so-called interests.

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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Increasing Frequency of Cyclones and Flooding Portends Worse Problems

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Sixteen years ago on August 29th, hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana coast causing widespread damage that was estimated at $125 billion.  This year, by a remarkable coincidence, hurricane Ida hit on the same date, again August 29th.  The weather service  holds the end of August though the beginning of September as the period with the highest likelihood of tropical cyclones hitting the Louisiana coast.  In light of this, perhaps the coincidence is not quite as uncanny.

While not as large as Katrina, hurricane Ida was more powerful with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour.  That is in line with climate scientists who now believe extreme weather events will tend to increase in both severity and frequency unless something is done about global warming.

Another example has been the heat wave last June in the Pacific Northwest in which hundreds of people died.  Canada set an all-time-high temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius in the village of Lytton.  The chance of all this happening without human-induced global warming is about 1 in a 1000.  However, the warming makes the event 150 times more likely. 

Following Ida was hurricane Larry.  Also powerful, it formed in the Atlantic but luckily for the Atlantic coast chose a path straight north.  These recurring extreme weather events have caught the attention of scientists.  Thus Myhre from the Center for Climate Research in Norway and his coauthors find a strong increase in frequency and confirm previously established intensity.  They collected data for Europe over a three-decade period (1951-1980) and repeated the process for 1984-2013.  This historical data also allowed them to develop climate models for the future, and, as one might imagine, the future is not rosy.

Expanding their horizon, the authors note that historical and future changes in Europe follow a similar pattern.  This does not hold when including the US, Japan and Australia which are likely to experience bigger changes.  Given intensity and frequency going hand in hand and also that the study considered natural variability alone, we can only dread the inclusion of human forcing through climate drivers like greenhouse gases.

For coastal residents, sea level rise adds to the hazard.  Worse, it is now a problem for people several miles inland.  In South Florida, drainage canals are used to return water to the ocean after storm and flooding events; the difficulty now lies in rising sea levels that hinder the efficiency of the drainage canals. 

Residents as far away as 20 miles inland have noticed water coming up their driveway, a new and frightening portend of the future.  The South Florida Water Management District oversees the canals.  It raises and lowers the gates controlling flow to the ocean or vice versa.  Thus they can open the gates to release flood water from storms to the ocean. 

The problem now is that the ocean level in the Atlantic during some storms is higher than the water level inland so they cannot open the gates — that would simply bring in more water.   

All of these happenings are clearly not a happy future prospect … unless we take global warming seriously and act soon. 

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Human activity the common link between disasters around the world

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Disasters such as cyclones, floods, and droughts are more connected than we might think, and human activity is the common thread, a UN report released on Wednesday reveals.

The study from the UN University, the academic and research arm of the UN, looks at 10 different disasters that occurred in 2020 and 2021, and finds that, even though they occurred in very different locations and do not initially appear to have much in common, they are, in fact, interconnected.

A consequence of human influence

The study builds on the ground-breaking Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment released on 9 August, and based on improved data on historic heating, which showed that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General described the IPCC assessment as a “code red for humanity”.

Over the 2020-2021 period covered by the UN University, several record-breaking disasters took place, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a cold wave which crippled the US state of Texas, wildfires which destroyed almost 5 million acres of Amazon rainforest, and 9 heavy storms in Viet Nam – in the span of only 7 weeks.

Arctic-Texas link

Whilst these disasters occurred thousands of miles apart, the study shows how they are related to one another, and can have consequences for people living in distant places.

An example of this is the recent heatwave in the Arctic and cold wave in Texas. In 2020, the Arctic experienced unusually high air temperatures, and the second-lowest amount of sea ice cover on record.

This warm air destabilized the polar vortex, a spinning mass of cold air above the North Pole, allowing colder air to move southward into North America, contributing to the sub-zero temperatures in Texas, during which the power grid froze up, and 210 people died.

COVID and the Cyclone

Another example of the connections between disasters included in the study and the pandemic, is Cyclone Amphan, which struck the border region of India and Bangladesh.

In an area where almost 50 per cent of the population is living under the poverty line, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns left many people without any way to make a living, including migrant workers who were forced to return to their home areas and were housed in cyclone shelters while under quarantine.

When the region was hit by Cyclone Amphan, many people, concerned over social distancing, hygiene and privacy, avoided the shelters and decided to weather the storm in unsecure locations. In the aftermath, there was a spike in COVID-19 cases, compounding the 100 fatalities directly caused by Amphan, which also caused damage in excess of 13 billion USD and displaced 4.9 million people.

Root causes

The new report identifies three root causes that affected most of the events in the analysis: human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, insufficient disaster risk management, and undervaluing environmental costs and benefits in decision-making.

The first of these, human induced greenhouse gas emissions, is identified as one of the reasons why Texas experienced freezing temperatures, but these emissions also contribute to the formation of super cyclones such as Cyclone Amphan, on the other side of the world.

Insufficient disaster risk management, notes the study, was one of the reasons why Texas experienced such high losses of life and excessive infrastructure damage during the cold snap, and also contributed to the high losses caused by the Central Viet Nam floods.

The report also shows how the record rate of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to the high global demand for meat: this demand has led to an increase in the need for soy, which is used as animal feed for poultry. As a result, tracts of forest are being cut down.

“What we can learn from this report is that disasters we see happening around the world are much more interconnected than we may realize, and they are also connected to individual behaviour”, says one of the report’s authors, UNU scientist Jack O’Connor. “Our actions have consequences, for all of us,”

Solutions also linked

However, Mr. O’Connor is adamant that, just as the problems are interlinked, so are the solutions.

The report shows that cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions can positively affect the outcome of many different types of disasters, prevent a further increase in the frequency and severity of hazards, and protect biodiversity and ecosystems.

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Blue sky thinking: 5 things to know about air pollution

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Around 90 per cent of people go through their daily lives breathing harmful polluted air, which has been described by the United Nations as the most important health issue of our time. To mark the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, on 7 September, UN News explains how bad it is and what is being done to tackle it.

1) Air pollution kills millions and harms the environment

It may have dropped from the top of news headlines in recent months, but air pollution remains a lethal danger to many: it precipitates conditions including heart disease, lung disease, lung cancer and strokes, and is estimated to cause one in nine of all premature deaths, around seven million every year.

Air pollution is also harming also harms our natural environment. It decreases the oxygen supply in our oceans, makes it harder for plants to grow, and contributes to climate change.

Yet, despite the damage it causes, there are worrying signs that air pollution is not seen as a priority in many countries: in the first ever assessment of air quality laws, released on 2 September by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), it was revealed that around 43 per cent of countries lack a legal definition for air pollution, and almost a third of them have yet to adopt legally mandated outdoor air quality standards.

2) The main causes

 Five types of human activity are responsible for most air pollution: agriculture, transport, industry, waste and households.

Agricultural processes and livestock produce methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, and a cause of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Methane is also a by-product of waste burning, which emits other polluting toxins, which end up entering the food chain. Meanwhile industries release large amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and chemicals.

Transport continues to be responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, despite the global phase out of dangerous leaded fuel at the end of August. This milestone was lauded by senior UN officials, including the Secretary-General, who said that it would prevent around one million premature deaths each year. However, vehicles continue to spew fine particulate matter, ozone, black carbon and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere; it’s estimated that treating health conditions caused by air pollution costs approximately $1 trillion per year globally.

Whilst it may not come as a great shock to learn that these activities are harmful to health and the environment, some people may be surprised to hear that households are responsible for around 4.3 million deaths each year. This is because many households burn open fires and use inefficient stoves inside homes, belching out toxic particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead and mercury.

3) This is an urgent issue

 The reason that the UN is ringing alarm bells about this issue now, is that the evidence of the effects of air pollution on humans is mounting. In recent years exposure to air pollution has been found to contribute to an increased risk of diabetes, dementia, impaired cognitive development and lower intelligence levels.

On top of this, we have known for years that it is linked to cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

Concern about this type of pollution dovetails with increased global action to tackle the climate crisis: this is an environmental issue as well as a health issue, and actions to clean up the skies would go a long way to reducing global warming. Other harmful environmental effects include depleted soil and waterways, endangered freshwater sources and lower crop yields.

4) Improving air quality is a responsibility of government and private sector

On International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, the UN is calling on governments to do more to cut air pollution and improve air quality.

Specific actions they could take include implementing integrated air quality and climate change policies; phasing out petrol and diesel cars; and committing to reduce emissions from the waste sector.

Businesses can also make a difference, by pledging to reduce and eventually eliminate waste; switching to low-emission or electric vehicles for their transport fleets; and find ways to cut emissions of air pollutants from their facilities and supply chains.

5)…and it is our responsibility, as well

At an individual level, as the harmful cost of household activities shows, a lot can be achieved if we change our behaviour.

Simple actions can include using public transportation, cycling or walking; reducing household waste and composting; eating less meat by switching to a plant-based diet; and conserving energy.

The Website for the International Day contains more ideas of actions that we can take, and how we can encourage our communities and cities to make changes that would contribute to cleaner skies: these include organizing tree-planting activities, raising awareness with events and exhibitions, and committing to expanding green open spaces.

How clean is your air?

You may well be wondering exactly how clean or dirty the air around you is right now. If so, take a look at a UNEP website which shows how exposed we are to air pollution, wherever we live.

The site indicates that more than five billion people, or around 70 per cent of the global population, are breathing air that is above the pollution limits recommended by the World Health Organization.

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