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article imageUN warns that climate crisis could lead to 'climate apartheid'

By Karen Graham     Jun 26, 2019 in Environment
The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said.
Philip Alston, the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty, coined the term in a new report on the climate crisis and its impacts on human rights and democracy.
“Even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger,” Alston said in the report released June 25, 2019. “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction. It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.”
Alston also criticized the steps taken by UN bodies as "patently inadequate." The Australian native, a member of the UN's panel of independent experts, said that with extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and hurricanes becoming more frequent, the world's poorest people will be forced to "choose between starvation and migration."
"We risk a 'climate apartheid' scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer," he said.
Climate Apartheid
The Afrikaans word for “apartness” gave the world "Apartheid," a policy that governed relations between South Africa’s white minority and nonwhite majority and sanctioned racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
The word is used in the UN report in a unique way that opens the door to a scenario that could easily happen in our world as the climate crisis continues to impact poorer, less developed countries. But the impacts of the climate crisis will also affect the impoverished masses in developed countries, as well.
As a matter of fact, the difference between how the climate crisis affects the wealthy and the poor is already apparent. Alston uses the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on New York City in 2012. While thousands of low-income families were left without power and healthcare for days, the Goldman Sachs HQ in Manhattan was kept safe by tens of thousands of sandbags and powered by a private generator.
Professor Philip Alston is the current Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. The S...
Professor Philip Alston is the current Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council.
United Nations Human Rights
The inequalities and disparities between the wealthy and poorer communities are increasingly evident, right here in the United States. And this is because poverty and a lack of resources make it impossible to escape because there is nowhere to go. It is this gaping difference that Alston is talking about.
The impacts of the climate crisis could increase divisions, Alston said. “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer."
“Yet democracy and the rule of law, as well as a wide range of civil and political rights are every bit at risk,” Alston’s report said, according to The Guardian. “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”
Alston's report will be formally presented to the UN's Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on Friday.
More about climate apartheid, Climate crisis, impoverished, Developing nations, apartness
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