‘Climate apartheid’: Report says the rich could buy out of climate change disaster

The world's richest people could breeze through a climate disaster – for a price.

‘Climate apartheid’: Report says the rich could buy out of climate change disaster

Sea level rise around Manhattan will be offset by billion-dollar solutions. Not so in other parts of the world.

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
  • A new report from a United Nation expert warns that an over-reliance on the private sector to mitigate climate change could cause a "climate apartheid."
  • The report criticizes several countries, including the U.S., for taking "short-sighted steps in the wrong direction."
  • The world's poorest populations are most vulnerable to climate change even though they generally contribute the least to global emissions.


Global warming could create a "climate apartheid," where rich people pay to escape the worst effects of climate change while poor people are left to suffer, according to a new United Nations report.

"Even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger," wrote the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, in a report released today. Alston penned the report to make the UN Human Rights Council "face up to the fact that human rights might not survive the coming upheaval."

"Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction," Alston said. "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."

A lack of action from world governments could lead to an over-reliance on the private sector to respond to climate change, Alston wrote. This could cause not only a climate-apartheid scenario, but also the destruction of the rule of law.

"...a wide range of civil and political rights are every bit at risk," he wrote. "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 criticized several countries for taking "short-sighted steps in the wrong direction": Brazil, for promising to open up the Amazon Rainforest for mining; the US, for placing former lobbyists in oversight roles and "actively silencing and obfuscating climate science"; and China, for "exporting coal-fired power plants abroad and failing to implement its regulations for methane emissions at home."

Alston also wrote that the UN's actions have been "patently inadequate" and "entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat." The new report is set to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Friday.

Climate change and inequality

The poorest populations will likely suffer most from climate change, primarily because they're more likely to live in areas that are especially vulnerable to natural disasters, sea-level rise and volatile market changes. But it's worth noting that, in general, these poor populations actually contribute the least to global emissions.

"The poorest half of the world's population—3.5 billion people—is responsible for just 10 percent of carbon emissions, while the richest 10 percent are responsible for a full half," Alston wrote. "A person in the wealthiest 1 percent uses 175 times more carbon than one in the bottom 10 percent."

Climate change has increasingly become a focus of human rights groups, due in part to these disparities. In 2015, the Paris Agreement became the first climate-related treaty to mention human rights, stating that all parties must acknowledge their obligations to groups such as migrants, indigenous peoples and people in vulnerable situations.

Alston wrote that it's time for the U.N. Human Rights Council to devise "specific actions."

"The Human Rights Council can no longer afford to rely only on the time-honored techniques of organizing expert panels, calling for reports that lead nowhere, urging others to do more but doing little itself, and adopting wide-ranging but inconclusive and highly aspirational resolutions," he wrote. "It should commission an urgent expert study to identify options available and organize a high-level working group to propose and monitor specific actions."

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams

Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.

Videos
  • There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
  • Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
  • "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
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Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
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