“Hundreds of millions will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease, and death,” the author of a UN report argues.
Thanks to their wealth the rich have always been able to insulate themselves far better than the poor against the slings and arrows of misfortune. The same will be the case when the worse effects of climate change begin sweeping the world.
In fact, the planet is facing the prospect of a “climate apartheid” whereby the rich will weather the effects of climate change fairly well while the poor will end up suffering its consequences to the full, according to a report submitted to the UN’s Human Rights Council.
A main reason for that is simple: wealthy individuals and businesses can protect themselves against extreme climate events by investing heavily in protective measures. People with no such financial wherewithal won’t be able to do so, however.
The author of the report, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, cited the example of a power outage in New York that left millions without power when Hurricane Sandy hit the state in 2012. Meanwhile, “the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator,” he writes.
The rich can remain largely unscathed, but not so the poor. “Even under the best-case scenario, hundreds of millions will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease, and death,” Alston cautions.
Growing disparities in the face of cataclysmic climate change could lead to even starker divisions between the haves and have-nots.
“An over-reliance on the private sector could lead to a climate apartheid scenario in which the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” he posits. “We know that if we wait another decade before taking really major, revolutionary measures to transform our economies, the situation is going to be absolutely dire,” he adds.
Yet meaningful action on climate change is still lacking despite repeated pledges by governments to rein in their carbon emissions. “Thirty years of conventions appear to have done very little,” Alston writes. “From Toronto to Noordwijk to Rio to Kyoto to Paris, the language has been remarkably similar as [nations worldwide] continue to kick the can down the road.”