The other day I was reading a document entitled "National Security and threat of climate change". I thought that the title of the document alone would stir national governments and make them think intensively on actions how to address climate change. Even those who doubted the certainty of science, and those who -in the words of Sir Nicolas Stern - are "absurd, reckless, irresponsible and ethically indefensible" would think of doing something after reading it as it deals with issues related to national security.
Security and Safety are the words that make people act. I recall some one saying that those who do not want to throw coins at beggars because they feel that beggars MUST work would start throwing coins if you convince them that beggars and poverty are severe threats to their security.
National Security is such an important issue now that countrie take unilateral action if they find that there is threat to their national security.
We all know that climate change is a 'global threat'. But all global threats appear to be a distant thunder. As long as 'it is not in my backyard ' the chances of any action against the threat is a far-flung possibility. Very few realize that life threatening lava flowing down from a volcano in the distance could one day sweep not only 'my backyard' , but even the microscopic life, leave alone human beings. The same goes with retreating glaciers. It appears so far away, that the consequences of such a glacial retreat like drying up of the rivers Ganges, Mekong, Indus, Yangtze , Brahmaputra - all originating from Himalayan glaciers - appear to many as a phenomenon that belongs to another era in the distant future and not at all belonging to our times.
Even those Governments that are placid and complacent are likely to act swiftly when there is threat to the national security arising out of enemy attack or terrorism.
A distant global threat suddenly appears at the door step when it is termed national security. Hence, I appreciated the way the impacts of the climate change are shown as something of a threat to the national security. It is the right way to create awareness among governments to inspire actions.
Recently I even heard something more serious. A document that I came across concluded that climate change is violating human rights.
On the radio I listened to the interview of an Eskimo who was describing how his family livelihood and dignity is being snatched away from them by the melting of snow due to global warming. He can no longer slide his ice sledge to go hunting, and the ice holes which he used to hunt for seals are disappearing. Even his home built with ice blocks may no longer stand. The reindeers will disappear, and he may not be able to stitch the clothes using the skin of the reindeers. The basic necessities of food, shelter and clothes are threatened due to global warming and he and his family cannot live with dignity. He went on to say that this is not future tense description. He is experiencing it now, at present.
So, he wants the Human Rights Commission to intervene so that his basic human rights are protected. He also said that he was not responsible for global warming, but he is getting affected by it more and more and upfront. It has been recognized by now that those who are not responsible for global warming i.e. the poor countries would suffer most from the impacts as they would not have ability and means to counter and to absorb the them.
Impacts of Ozone Layer Depletion could also have threatened national security and violated human rights, had the world not acted in time. Ozone layer depletion threatens the food security (it reduces the plant growth and crop productivity), human health (it reduces the immune system and causes cancer and cataracts) and the very existence of human beings would have been under severe threat, again starting with Eskimos who live in the polar region.
We have lessons to learn in addressing the national security and human rights in relation with global environmental issues. We may lose the battle but we should not lose the lessons however small they may be.