Ioana Teitiota, the Kiribati man seeking climate refugee status in order to avoid being deported from New Zealand, has had his case rejected by the Court of Appeal. He and his family will now have to return to the low-lying islands and deal with the worsening impacts of sea level rise. In a powerful Comment Is Free piece for the Guardian, Morgan Godfery looks at the lack of humanity implicit in the court’s ruling:
The decision reveals — in all its misery — the protection deficit in international law. A judicial decision is an uncodified statement of power relations. Never could there be a more unequal power relationship than here: on one side, the I-Kiribati and their sinking home, on the other the rigid machinery of international law. If Lord Diplock is right, then “law is about man’s duty to his neighbour”. That principle should underpin our approach to climate change and forced migration.
He then echoes Naomi Klein’s call for mass action to compel governments to act:
But the law doesn’t encompass all of our moral obligations. It’s clear that the international system isn’t fit for purpose. Let’s look past it to social resistance and political solutions. Science, as Naomi Klein argues, “is telling us to revolt”. Ordinary people need to put pressure on their governments to deal with climate change displacement. The missing link isn’t some new legal rule, but mass action.
As the news about sea level rise gets worse, with bigger rises looking likely to happen sooner than expected, the prospects for the I-Kiribati and many tens of thousands more in the Pacific are becoming ever more gloomy. In that context, New Zealand’s responsibilities to its neighbours is clear. Godfery’s conclusion is compelling:
The social history of the Pacific is one of migration, from the early Austronesian and Polynesian expansions to the recent European settler migration. How can we say no to refugees when we are all migrants ourselves?
Nearly four years ago I reviewed Climate Code Red by Australians David Spratt and Philip Sutton. Even then the authors spoke of the recently released 2007 IPCC report as too conservative in its predictions. Here’s how I described their position:
The authors lament the limitations of the IPCC system, ascribing them partly to pressure from vested interests harboured by some countries, partly to the long process of gathering the information from published material and the early cut-off date for reports, and partly to scientists being uncomfortable with estimates based on known but presently unquantified mechanisms. It adds up to a process so deficient as to be an unreliable and even misleading basis for policy-making.
They instanced particularly the diminishing Arctic sea ice and its amplifying consequences, the possibility of faster disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet, the vulnerability of the West Antarctic ice sheet and the likelihood of much higher sea rise than anticipated, as well as widespread species and eco-system destruction.
That was four years ago. In a recent striking article David Spratt reacts to the increased loss of Arctic summer sea ice by re-emphasising and extending the message that the science frame has changed considerably since the 2007 IPCC report. Climate changes and impacts are happening more quickly and at lower temperatures than expected, and he details some of them. He quotes Kim Holmen, Norwegian Polar Institute international director, saying that the big sea-ice melt of 2012 is “a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago”. It “has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us”.
Continue reading “Arctic code red: uncharted territory”
Early results from the European Space Agency’s Cryosat-2 satellite, launched in 2010, suggest that the Arctic sea ice volume in summer is currently being lost at the rate of 900 cubic kilometres per year, Robin McKie reports in The Guardian. By combining Cryosat data with other sources they have concluded that there has been a dramatic reduction in sea ice volume over the last eight years:
In winter 2004, the volume of sea ice in the central Arctic was approximately 17,000 cubic kilometres. This winter it was 14,000, according to CryoSat.
However, the summer figures provide the real shock. In 2004 there was about 13,000 cubic kilometres of sea ice in the Arctic. In 2012, there is 7,000 cubic kilometres, almost half the figure eight years ago. If the current annual loss of around 900 cubic kilometres continues, summer ice coverage could disappear in about a decade in the Arctic.
Ten years (or less) ’til its gone in summer. I hate to say I told you so, but…
Continue reading “Pump up the volume (before the ice is gone)”
Extreme weather events are where the climate change rubber hits the road, and if events over the last month are anything to go by, global warming is currently doing doughnuts and burnouts on tarmac right round the globe. Kevin Trenberth put it rather nicely in an interview with PBS Newshour in the US: “This is a view of the future, so watch out.” John Vidal in The Guardian sums up the situation rather well:
…how much more extreme weather does it take for governments and individuals to act, or for the oil companies to withdraw from the Arctic, or the media to link global warming with the events now being witnessed around the world? Must the sea boil, the Seine run dry, New York flood and the London Olympics be consumed by fire before countries are shocked into taking concerted action?
Damn good question.
Continue reading “The truth is molten”
The Guardian’s environmental editor John Vidal is a journalist who takes opportunities to report the adverse effects of climate change already being experienced by some of the world’s poorer populations. In earlier posts I’ve drawn attention to pieces he’s written about Peru and some of the countries of Africa. This week he tells of the problems confronting villagers in Bangladesh. Coastal villages face enormous challenges from increased flooding, erosion and salt-water intrusion and the local communities are tackling them with vigour. Vidal writes of Rebecca Sultan of the village of Gazipara which suffered enormous damage from two super-cyclones in recent years:
Sultan and 30 other women have raised their small houses and toilets several feet up on to earth plinths. Others are growing more salt-tolerant crops and fruit trees, and most families are trying different ways to grow vegetables. “We know we must live with climate change and are trying to adapt,” said Sultan.
Elsewhere in Bangladesh, hundreds of communities are strengthening embankments, planting protective shelter belts, digging new ponds and wells and collecting fresh water. Some want to build bunkers to store their valuables, others want cyclone shelters.
Continue reading “Bangladesh: on the front line”