UN Pact Acknowledges Climate Migration for the First Time
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration acknowledged climate change as a cause of migration, both due to extreme weather and "slow onset events" like drought after various advocacy groups pushed for the addition.
"It's the first time the international community has recognized that migration and displacement can be caused by climate change disasters and has made specific commitments on how to address that," Walter Kaelin from the Platform on Disaster Displacement told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Weather disasters displaced an average of 26.4 million people a year between 2008 and 2015, according the UN. And in March the World Bank warned that more than 140 million people in Africa, South Asia and Latin America could be forced to migrate due to climate change unless the world acts quickly to lower emissions, according to Reuters.
Most of the climate change mentions in the current compact come under Objective No. 3, calling on signatories to "Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin."
The compact lists investing in "climate change mitigation" as one way to minimize these forces.
The compact also calls on signatories to share information to better understand and predict climate-caused migrations, develop strategies to combat the effects of climate change, consider possible displacement when creating disaster response plans, coordinate at a regional and subregional level to make sure the humanitarian needs and rights of climate migrants are met and develop strategies to respond to the challenges posed by climate-based migration movements.
"After this compact, no one can say: 'We don't see a relation between climate change and displacement and migration,'" head of climate change and resilience policy at CARE International Sven Harmeling told The Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"But we'll have to see how fast and how many governments will sign up to this," he added.
The compact will be officially adopted at a meeting in Morocco in December.
The compact is non-binding and does not require countries to agree to targeted goals or to grant any climate migrant legal status.
It was first begun in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, which saw the largest number of refugees enter the region since World War II.
The compact was originally agreed to by all 193 UN member countries, but the U.S. pulled out last year and Hungary also promised to withdraw Wednesday.
The U.S. government has since come under fire for its treatment of Central American asylum seekers at the country's southern border, some of whom are partly fleeing drought and food insecurity linked to climate change.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the Thomson Reuters Foundation
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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