New Report Details How Fossil Fuel Industry's Climate Destruction Also Exacerbates Human Rights Abuses
By Julia Conley
In addition to having a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities around the globe which have contributed the least to climate-warming fossil fuel emissions, the climate crisis has exacerbated the human rights violations already perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report.
The grassroots climate action group 350.org examined ten global communities which have suffered from heavy pollution, deforestation, displacement, and other violations as multinational corporations like Chevron and Shell — in addition to smaller fossil fuel entities and corrupt governments — have placed profits over human rights.
"The pollution and contamination often caused by fossil fuel industry activities mainly affect the poorest populations, as well as the climate crisis," said Aaron Packard, manager of the Climate Defenders program at 350.org, in a statement. "Vulnerable communities are being doubly exposed to losses or scarcity of land, fish stocks and water, for example."
Oil, gas and coal companies are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses committed by corporations aro… https://t.co/BhonUOcwRO— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1581085201.0
350.org surveyed the region of Ogoniland in Nigeria, where Shell Oil has dumped an estimated nine to 13 million barrels of crude oil into the Niger Delta since 1958.
The company's activities in Ogoniland have led to polluted air and water as well as decimated natural habitats, violating the rights of the 832,000 people who live there.
The local government has also worked with Shell to suppress the right of people in Ogoniland to fight against the pollution.
"Protests against widespread and persistent oil pollution have been brutally repressed, with loss of life and a series of other egregious human rights violations," the report reads. "Victims of severe human rights abuses associated with oil extraction in the Niger Delta are still awaiting for remediation of the harm caused to their lands, water, and livelihood, in spite of multiple victories before courts and human rights bodies."
Shell's activities in the Niger Delta are just one example of how the fossil fuel industry has led to an estimated 45,000 premature deaths due to pollution, crop losses resulting from drought and other climate extremes, and other environmental results of the carbon emissions.
The report also points to coal power plants in the Muğla region of Turkey, where companies have done "severe environmental harm" since 1983. Emissions from the plants have been linked to premature deaths from heart disease, respiratory disease, and cancer, while the companies have forced communities to leave the area as they ramp up their operations.
The European Court of Human Rights recognized in 2005 that the communities had a right to bring legal action against the plants, but the companies have not ceased their extraction of coal and the resulting pollution. Governments, 350.org wrote, must pass legislation to rein in the fossil fuel industry.
The recognition by courts of human rights is "no replacement for effective legislation concerning environmental harm," the report states, "and human rights remedies are no replacement for effective preventive and remedial measures against environmental harm caused by fossil fuel companies."
Other cases detailed in the report include threats to water security in Australia and the contamination of rivers and fish stocks in indigenous territories in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
"Even in the face of the clearest scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels is literally setting the planet on fire, this sector continues to invest in the same old model and often misinforms society about the climate crisis and its causes," said Packard. "In doing so, companies are actively disregarding the right of entire populations to a healthy environment, sufficient and quality food, and a political and social scenario of stability."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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