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IMPACT OF ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE CHANGE ON GLOBAL VULNERABLE POPULATION

INTRODUCTION

Anthropogenic climate, also known as human-induced climate change refers to the long-term shift in the earth’s temperature and weather pattern primarily due to human activities i.e., deforestation, high emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, etc. The human footprint on Earth’s climate can be traced since the Industrial Revolution as it was the beginning of carbon emissions in higher quantities. The Emissions of these greenhouse gases have severe impacts on the environment, contributing to global warming, climate change, and associated consequences such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the loss of biodiversity.

Most importantly, its impact is not limited to only the environment as it also disproportionately affects the human rights of vulnerable groups, and exacerbates existing inequalities. This blog aims to enhance the understanding of the interconnectedness between anthropogenic climate change and human rights violations to find a sustainable solution. The rights that are majorly impacted by the climate crisis include the right to life, health, food, education, clean water & sanitation etc.

VULNERABILITY: WHO IS MOST AT RISK?

 Although the climate crisis is a global concern, affecting almost every individual still a particular section of the world population is most vulnerable to the risk of climate change. This vulnerable Population includes persons with disability, children, pregnant women, people suffering from chronic diseases, aged people, etc.  Moreover, according to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC), vulnerability is higher in areas with poverty, governance issues, poor access to basic resources and services, violent conflict, and high concentrations of communities with climate-sensitive livelihoods (such as small-scale farmers, pastoralists, and fishing communities). Most of these populations belong to the least developed countries (LDCs).

The Least Developed Countries Report 2022 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) exhibits, about 1.1 billion people living in 46 LDCs comprising 14% of the world population are highly exposed to the repercussions of the climate crisis.  Although they are least accountable for climate besides having the most no of death (around 69% of total death caused by climate change) in the past 50 years. Ironically, on the other hand, the top three carbon emitting countries, including China, US, and India, responsible for 50% of the global Co2 emission, are comparatively lower at risk of the climate crisis.

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES?

Climate change is one of the greatest barriers to the enjoyment of human rights. The IPCC report tells that between the years 2010 to 2020, the human mortality rate due to climate catastrophes such as floods, droughts, storms, etc. was 15 times greater in highly vulnerable regions than in other regions.  There are many such instances of violation of the right to life i.e. universally recognized fundamental human rights, guaranteed under section 3 and section 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) respectively.

 Secondly, the drought caused by rising temperatures hampers food production, particularly affecting small-scale farmers who heavily rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. This situation directly impacts the human right to food, as these farmers struggle to produce enough crops to meet their own needs and contribute to local food security. Sections of the population most vulnerable to the climate crisis, such as marginalized communities and those living in poverty, are disproportionately affected by the scarcity of food and face increased challenges in accessing an adequate and nutritious diet. Without access to sufficient and nutritious food, vulnerable populations are at a higher risk of malnutrition, compromised immune systems, and various health conditions. Thus, ensuring the right to food for these individuals is vital for protecting their right to health and promoting overall well-being.

Additionally, the repercussions of anthropogenic climate change have led to migration from places that are vulnerable to the risk of climate catastrophe.  People living in the high-risk zone often face the necessity to migrate from their homes in search of favorable living conditions. Recently, we witnessed more than 400 families migrate from the sinking town of ‘Joshimath’, Uttarakhand, India. likewise, there are several instances of migration due to adverse impacts of climate change, such as increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, rising sea levels, loss of arable land, etc.

 As per the recent Groundswell report from the World Bank, the number of internal climate migrants might increase up to 216 million worldwide by 2050. This is a serious concern in view of human rights violations as migration not only violates people’s right to livelihood and right to education for children, etc. but migrants also suffer emotionally as they see separation from their birthplace as a threat to their cultural integrity.

MAJOR CORRECTIVE STEPS

The  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has facilitated the adoption of legally binding agreements including the Kyoto Protocol (1997), later replaced by the Paris Agreement (2015)  to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and limit global warming, through regulations and global cooperation. The focus of the Paris Agreement on long-term benefits motivates countries to develop long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDS).  It recognizes the need for protection of human rights especially of vulnerable groups.  Additionally, to support developing countries in their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts the UNFCCC established the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to mobilize significant financial resources It prioritizes initiatives that address the needs of vulnerable populations and help safeguard their rights, such as access to renewable energy, climate-resilient infrastructure, etc.

Also, the 27th edition of the United Nations climate conference (COP 27) has adopted the loss and damage fund to provide financial assistance to the nations which are highly vulnerable to the risk of climate change so as to protect and promote the rights of the vulnerable sections of the population. On the other hand, the assessment report of the IPCC plays a major role in curbing anthropogenic climate change, it helps policymakers in formulating effective climate action policies with the help of scientific data and recommendations. Ultimately, the knowledge provided by the IPCC reports serves as a crucial tool that ensures the well-being of the most vulnerable sections.

ASSESSMENT & CONCLUSION

Anthropogenic climate change is an alarming threat to mankind. Although it can’t be eradicated completely, its impact can be delayed if we pledge to save Mother Earth and help our nation in achieving the goals put forward by international organizations. The present actions are not sufficient to expect the desired result for limiting human-induced climate change and violations of the rights of vulnerable people. There is an urgent need for actions to ensure food security, enhance healthcare systems, etc. to protect these communities from the deadly impacts of climate change.

This combat can never be successful unless every individual contributes to it. Even a little help from each person in the world could be highly impactful. We can contribute by planting at least 2-5 trees every month, using electric vehicles and public transport, avoiding the misuse of electricity, donating to NGOs etc.

Author(s) Name: Utkarsh Anand (Christ (Deemed to be University), Delhi NCR)