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Global warming as a human rights issue

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The battle over global warming took a new turn last week at the latest UN environmental conference as the Inuit asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to rule the United States was threatening their existence by not addressing and seeking to stem emissions that contribute to global warming. The US contributes 25% of the world’s emissions, yet is only 5% of the global population.

The commission, an investigative arm of the Organization of American States, has no enforcement powers. But a declaration that the United States has violated the Inuit’s rights could create the foundation for an eventual lawsuit, either against the United States in an international court or against American companies in federal court, said a number of legal experts, including some aligned with industry.

Such a petition could have decent prospects now that industrial countries, including the United States, have concluded in recent reports and studies that warming linked to heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe emissions is contributing to big environmental changes in the Arctic, a number of experts said.

The Inuit, who number approximately 155,000, depend on the seal hunt for their survival and With arctic ice receding due to climate change, their ability to survive is in jeopardy. The Inuit are represented by the non-profit law firm EarthJustice and the Center for International Environmental Law.

This is the latest effort by small nations to make their voices heard about an issue that effects their survival through no fault of their own. The Inuit do not drive or build cars, or fly jet planes. They live on the ice and hunt. During the conference they planned on meeting with representatives of other small nations to discuss options for working together and continuing to press their case, including legal means if necessary.

One of those nations is Tuvalu. Tuvalu is a series of small atolls in the Pacific. The islands are only 3 meters above sea-level. In 2002 on a beautiful day a tidal surge from the warming, rising Pacific Ocean flooded nearly all of the capital island of Funafuti.

The future looks bleak for Tuvalu if climate change is not addressed immediately. This is not a question of consumer rights, it has become a question of human rights. Who are we in the west to say our SUV is more important than the life of an Inuit or Tuvalu?

“We once again appeal to the industrialized countries, particularly those who have not done so, to urgently ratify and fully implement the Kyoto Protocol”. Tuvalu, having little or nothing to do with the causes, cannot be left on its own to pay the price. We must all work together. May God Bless you all. May God Bless the United Nations. TUVALU MO TE ATUA.”
— Tuvalu Statement at the 57th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, delivered by His Excellency Rt Hon Sir Tomasi Puapua, Governor General of Tuvalu, New York, 14 September 2002.

The conference also saw the US further water down their global commitment to curb greenhouse gases

Two weeks of negotiations at a United Nations conference here on climate change ended early Saturday with a weak pledge to start limited, informal talks on ways to slow down global warming, after the United States blocked efforts to begin more substantive discussions…..

It would seem the “Compassionate Conservative” believes the Inuit and Tuvalu should be on their own after all.

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About spiderleaf

  • Tom

    Bunk, pure bunk. Why don’t you read Michael Crichton’s new book, State of Fear, and see how many lies and distortions are there regarding this topic.

    The reason that the 5% of the world’s population produces 25% of the emissions is because we also are the driving economic force on the planet. The reason that you have a computer to type on, an internet to post it to, is because of the ingenuity and hardwork of Americans.

    But let’s regress. Let’s give up modern things, like dentistry, medecine, heat, light, food.

    Let’s just live on ice and hunt things. That’s better. A lifespan of 20 years and bad teeth.


  • how about let’s give up driving enormous ‘off-road’ vehicles through our suburbs every single day.

    we’re definitely not the entire problem but our piggish nature isn’t helping.


  • Tom

    I agree that most people don’t need big off road vehicles in the city. But America is about choice, and if people want one, who am I to say that can’t have one.

  • oh, i’m not arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to have them. they can have whatever they want.

    but when they start bitching about the price of fuel, maybe they should start looking in the mirror.

  • JR

    Why don’t you read Michael Crichton’s new book, State of Fear, and see how many lies and distortions are there regarding this topic.

    Um, because it’s a work of fiction and Crichton’s job is to lie and distort in the interest of entertainment.

  • But America is about choice, and if people want one, who am I to say that can’t have one.

    At some point, particularly with regard to the environment, Americans need to balance their desire to do whatever they damn please with their desire to live on a reasonably healthy planet and perhaps leave something behind for future generations. I am by no means advocating a return to reading by candlelight, but it seems that we are, as a people, very reluctant to make personal decisions that sacrifice our own creature comforts for the sake of the greater good. There seem to be areas in which favoring the rights of the individual over the rights of the community don’t seem to make much sense from a survival perspective.

  • The environment is not a standalone entity. What affects the Inuit in the Arctic now will eventually affect the entire planet. However, by the time it does affect the planet it may be too late to completely reverse.

    Yes, it is fabulous that I am sitting here with my Internet access and laptop, and all my other creature comforts. But I try and recognize on a daily basis that I am lucky. I live in an industrialized nation. The majority of the world’s population does not have these same luxuries and it is the height of arrogance and self-absorbtion to say “to hell with them all” I want to drive my damn Expedition to the corner store.