Friday, September 13, 2013

The New Face of Climate Change

            While the American media squabbles over whether global warming exists, climate change is already becoming a humanitarian issue in may parts of the world. As the former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, states, global warming is, “a human rights issue that risks the lives, livelihoods and homes of millions of people.”

            Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean of over 300,000 individuals. The small country has progressed largely in the last five years, with activist Mohamed Nasheed leading the peaceful overthrow of a thirty-year autocrat and ushering in democracy. However, the country still faces many problems – unemployment and corruption still pervade the country. But as Nasheed came to power as the first president of Maldives, he quickly realized Climate change overshadowed all of these issues. Every day, the country’s one and a half feet of elevation looses ground to rising ocean. He famously stated in the documentary, The Island President, “It won’t be any good to have a democracy if we don’t have a country.”

            Since then, Nasheed has tried desperately to get the US and other countries to take notice and cut their emissions. Maldives, despite accounting for 0.1% of emissions has pledged carbon neutrality by 2019. At past UN climate summits they’ve yelled controversial statements about how no one is listening and their country is dying.

            It looks now, however, that Maldives have begun to accept the sad truth. They have started buying land in Sri Lanka, India, and Australia in preparation for a mass migration. Unless there is the unlikely extreme reversal in worldwide environmental policy, it appears that the millions of low-lying inhabitants around the world will become refuges.

            At the center of the debate is the United States. We pump out 19% of the world’s emissions in comparison to EU’s 13%. The US holds the fate of climate change in its hands, not only because cutting out our 18% vastly decreases overall world emissions, but because the rest of the world listens to us. At the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009, China, a large greenhouse gas emitter, refused to even begin talks for an emissions reduction plan. However, when the US entered and agreed to a general plan, China quickly flipped. India acts similarly to China. When Maldives attempts to get their Indian neighbors to reduce emissions, India points their fingers at the US. Why should India do anything, they say, when the US makes no attempts to lower emissions? The United States, however, has done little to contain greenhouse gas production and set a good example. US coal exports continue to rise and environmentally devastating fracking policies keep being approved.

            Right now the face of global warming are time lapse images of reseeding ice sheets and complex charts showing temperature rise over the past century. Of course that doesn’t seem that scary. But as people are forced to vacate their homes on a grand scale by the end of the next couple decades, the US will have no choice but to take notice.

Check out The Island President on Netflix!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Justin. Indeed - climate change has already begun to incite human rights issues around the world. People are fighting over water, which has diminished in their regions due to climate change.It is beyond me why we deny scientific evidence in favor of political ideology and squabbling. It almost seems like it is the new "cold war" in that countries say "we won't stop letting out harmful emissions until you do. Until them, we will gladly pollute the world." In the cold war, you would have to replace "harmful emissions" with "nuclear arms." Except this is worse. We can try to contain arms, not use them, stop building them...but it is much less easy to do this to the very infrastructure that provides the backbone of our country and its economic wealth. We are rich because we pollute other people. The US needs to set an example and it is up to us to do so. WE have shown many times that we want to be a world leader... we should become a leader here too