June 1, 2009

Victim-hood's profiteers unite!


FROM-The Daily U W
Conference examines human-rights side of climate change

More than 40 legal experts gathered at the UW School of Law last week to look into how future laws and policies could affect victims of climate change.

Legal scholars, leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and policy makers convened for “Three Degrees: The Law of Climate Change and Human Rights Conference” to confront the humanitarian crisis that could come hand-in-hand with climate change. The conference aimed to influence policy makers who will attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Conference panelist Alex Steffen is founder of Worldchanging, an online publication about sustainability. He said that although environmental sustainability is a design and engineering problem, there is more to the issue.

“Our lack of progress toward sustainability is entirely a political problem,” Steffen said.

Former President of Ireland and former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said a climate-justice approach could be the solution to humanitarian problems that accompany adverse climate change.

“First, we must educate ourselves about the impacts of climate change,” Robinson said. “Second, countries must take responsibility for their contribution to climate change.”

UW atmospheric sciences professor David Battisti said climate change is also a human-rights issue because it could impact half of the world’s population.

In his study published in Time magazine in January, Battisti said starvation could strike half of the world’s population by 2100 following the onset of severe drought, as predicted through climate models.

“If you increase global temperatures, the yield [of food produced in the world] decreases,” Battisti said. “If plants grow faster, seeds don’t mature as [quickly].”

In February, New Scientist magazine reported that a 4-degree climb in temperature would leave Himalayan glaciers melted, Bangladesh abandoned and Peru dry and uninhabitable. Canada and northern parts of the United States would grow most of the world’s crops, but the Colorado river would be reduced to a mere trickle.

“We all act like this is like the 2004 tsunami,” said panelist John Knox, law professor at Wake Forest University and a senior adviser to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “This will be 1,000 times worse.”

Organized by students at the UW School of Law, “Three Degrees” partnered with The Climate Project (TCP) to spread awareness of conference findings. TCP is a grassroots, educational organization founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

UW law student Jeni Krencicki was one of the organizers for the conference. Krencicki was trained by Gore to present a slide show based on An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary the former vice president presented in 2006.

“Partnership with TCP gives global visibility to results from the conference, using the effective grassroots approach to Gore’s organization,” Krencicki said.

The conference moved under the “Chatham House Rule” Friday to help facilitate more open discussion, meaning that by law, speakers and participants in subsequent discussions in the conference could not be identified.


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