Vienna, July 8 – Global warming and the resulting changes in climate and crops it has engendered are the major reasons why Tajiks and other Central Asians are now fleeing their countries in ever increasing numbers and moving to the Russian Federation, according to research conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
At a press conference in Moscow today, Aleksey Kokorin, the WWF official who oversees Russian programs on climate change, said that Central Asia is “at the edge of a catastrophe” because of climate change, adding that if the international community does not intervene, there will be a tragedy (www.nr2.ru/moskow/185792.html).
Nicolas Colloff, who heads OXFAM’s Russian operations, seconded that opinion. He said that “climate change is leading to the appearance of a new category of refugee – the poor who are forced to emigrate from their native countries as a result of dangerous climatic processes.”
Recent increases in temperature have reduced the size of mountain glaciers and hence water supplies in that region, he said, and they have led to drought in key food-producing regions thus reducing the amount of food available to the population and driving up prices beyond the capacity of many to pay.
Global warming is also going to have an impact on other parts of Eurasia, melting the permafrost in much or all of the Russian north and changing crop yields in many places. As the countries in the region attempt to deal with these phenomena, they are going to be confronted with challenges they have not faced before.
The appearance of “environmental migrants” is only one, and that raises the broader problem of how individual countries and the international community should attempt to cope with the impact of climate change not only on the new economic situation people will find themselves in but also the human rights impact of such global change.
That makes a report released last month by the International Council on Human Rights Policy especially timely. Entitled “Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide,” the study (which is available in its entirety online at www.ichrp.org/files/reports/36/136_report.pdf) outlines the issues citizens and policy makers in many countries are going to have to address.
The report is especially important because it does not try to make climate change “a human rights issue” but rather because it shows how changes in the climate will in its words “have direct and indirect human rights impacts and where human rights principles might sharpen policy-making on climate change.”
Such studies are certain to become more numerous now that climate change is affecting entire regions of the world in such a way that even major countries which have assumed they were immune from its worst ravages are going to be affected in ways that few people anticipated even a decade ago.