Sunday, June 7, 2009

Environmental Torture in the Age of Blackberry & Smartphone.

The concept of environmental torture may now be credited to Henry Shue, Professor of Ethics & Public Life, Cornell University, who first introduced the concept of torture into environmental discuss through an earlier publication of his, in which he contends that the human consequences of climate change borders on deprivation of social and political rights. His position is that we cannot be talking about the consequences of climate change without talking about the social and political rights of people who bear the greatest burden of this problem. For many ethicist and environmentalist as him, the poor are much more vulnerable to climate change than the rich. Further, the vulnerability of poor communities tends to be inversely proportional to their responsibility in contributing to climate change. In addition, richer communities tend to emit higher proportion of greenhouse gases, through the multiple usages of carbon-emitting privileges and are less vulnerable to climate change. Professor Shun therefore contends that the vulnerability of the poor to the consequences of higher carbon emission, hence climate change, creates a situation of social and political injustice between the rich and the poor. While I may not be willing to go that far in looking at the consequences of climate change, I share his conviction that the most vulnerable among us, now and in the future, will surfer most from climate change if we do not resolve to cut down on our carbon emissions levels from the flaming of fossil fuel.

To some extent, you may not talk of climate change impact without looking at the issue of who will suffer most from continued climate change. Mitchell and Turner of the Institute of Developmental Studies in U.K. maintain that vulnerability is a combination of exposure to external shocks (e.g. a flood) and stresses (e.g. a gradual temperature increase), and the ability to cope with the resulting impacts. Current climate shocks, Katrina floods, and stresses, somehow exceeded the ability to cope, as we saw in the failure of the Federal Emergency System to cope with the tragedies of the Katrina floods. Without action to reduce exposure and improve the capacity to cope, the gradual and sudden changes associated with climate change will increase vulnerability in many areas. People’s tendency to hedge against risk on issue of climate change continues to fall short of the realty of its consequences. A utopia goal of reducing the total cumulative ton of carbon emission to a level not to exceed two centigrades temperature increase beyond the global pre-industrial age, which has been recommended by scientists, philosopher and environmentalist may not be attainable today. However, if we are able to cut now the pace of carbon emission, it may be feasible to save children of the future, from the external shocks of climate change. According to Shue at the University Of Washington School Of Law Conference: Three Degrees - The Law of Climate Change and Human Rights, those people who recommend that we should continue to burn fossil fuels until the returns to emitting carbon reaches zero, are enemies of the environment.
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