To strengthen the global response, CIEL's Climate Change Program focuses on impacts to people and ecosystems of the Arctic and subarctic. The program works to protect the Earth's climate system through promotion of human rights, forest conservation, and biodiversity protection. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the destructive effects of climate change will not only affect the environment, but also Arctic peoples. Average annual temperatures in the Arctic have increased by approximately double the increase in global average temperatures.
The direct impacts of global warming include higher temperatures, sea-level rise, the melting of sea ice and glaciers, increased precipitation in some areas, and drought in others. Indirect social, environmental, economic, and health impacts will follow, including increased death and serious illness in poor communities, decreased crop yields, heat stress in livestock and wildlife, and damage to coastal ecosystems, forests, drinking water, fisheries, buildings, and other resources.
During the past several decades, the Arctic has warmed at an alarming rate, and it is projected to continue to warm by as much as 18 degrees F (10 degrees C) by 2100. This warming trend has had a devastating impact on Arctic ecosystems, including sea ice, permafrost, forests, and tundra. Warming has con tributed to increases in lake temperatures, permafrost thawing, increased stress on plant and animal populations, and the melting of glaciers and sea ice. Research has revealed decreases in sea ice extent and cover.
In Shishmaref, Alaska, a small Inuit village in the Chukchi Sea, seven houses have had to be relocated, three have fallen into the sea, and engineers predict that the entire village of 600 houses could disappear into the sea within the next few decades. Shishmaref's airport runway has almost been met by rising seawater, and its fuel tank farm, which seven years ago was 300 ft. (92 m.) from the edge of a seaside bluff, is now only 35 ft. (10 m.) from the bluff. The town dump, which has seawater within 8 ft. (2 m.) of it, could pollute the nearby marine environment for years if inundated. Advancing seawater has contaminated Shishmaref's drinking water supply.
If global warming continues unchecked, it threatens to destroy their culture, render their land uninhabitable, and rob them of their means of subsistence. Subsidence due to permafrost melting is destroying homes, roads, and other vital structures in the Arctic. The harm caused by carbon dioxide emissions already violates some fundamental internationally recognized human rights such as those recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man: the right to life (Art. I), the right to residence and movement (Art. VIII), the right to inviolability of the home (Art. IX), the right to preservation of health and to well-being (Art. XI), the rights to benefits of culture (Art. XIII), and the right to work and to fair remuneration (Art. XIV).
International tribunals have recognized that harm to the environment that affects one's home can violate these rights. For example, in Lopez Ostra v. Spain, the European Court of Human Rights held that Spain's failure to prevent a waste treatment plant from polluting nearby homes violated the petitioner's "right to respect for her home and her private and family life," and held the state liable for damages.
CIEL and Earth Justice petitioned the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on behalf of the Inuits. The commission has in the past recognized the relationship between human rights and the environmental effects of development activities, and its interpretation of this relationship suggests that it would recognize the human rights implications of the effects of global warming. The United States has not ratified
the convention, and, as such, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. However, a report by the commission examining the connection between global warming and human rights could have a powerful impact on worldwide efforts to address global warming. Recognition by the commission of a link between global warming and human rights may establish a legal basis for holding responsible countries that have profited from inadequate greenhouse gas regulation and could provide a strong incentive to all countries to participate in effective international response efforts.
CIEL's Climate Change Program works to develop and strengthen the rules within the international climate change legal regime. Its primary goal is to get the rules right so that the Kyoto Protocol can become a genuine tool for environmental protection and sustainable development. During the course of climate negotiations, proposals developed by the center have been included in the negotiating texts and supported by governments and international institutions. The key areas of focus for the center's Climate Change Program include: accounting rules that ensure verifiable emissions reductions, promote sustainable development, conserve biological diversity and respect other ecological values; compliance and monitoring systems for enforcing the Kyoto Protocol; participation of the public, including directly affected local communities and civil society in the Kyoto Protocol; and domestic policy to combat global warming.
SEE ALSO: Arctic Ocean; Sea Ice; Sea Level, Rising.
BIBLIOGRApHY. Center for International Environmental Law, www.ciel.org (cited September 2007); Myron H. Nor-dquist, John Norton Moore, and Alexander S. Skaridov,
International Energy Policy, the Arctic and the Law of the Sea (Brill Academic Publishers, 2005).
Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos
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