What has climate change got to do with Anthrax, human rights or New Zealand?

Yamal herders crater Philippines Haiyan Urenui erosion combined

Photo credits below

Who would have thought climate change could have brought on an anthrax outbreak? Yet that’s exactly what’s happened. This week, a young boy in the Yamal Peninsula of Russia died and many herders were sent for hospital checks, the culprit being that an anthrax outbreak broke loose from the thawing of an infected reindeer (or possibly human) corpse.  A recent heatwave has melted the permafrost in which the reindeer had been buried for 70 years. The melt down set free the live spores of the deadly anthrax which has recently infected thousands of reindeer.

The remote Yamal Peninsula is not just home to traditional nomadic reindeer herders and former roaming grounds for mammoths. It hosts dozens of new craters, the result of the explosive emissions of large quantities of methane gas (previously locked away in permafrost), as the climate warms up. Ironically, the peninsula is also “a strategic oil- and gas bearing region of Russia” with two dozen oil /gas fields on- and off-shore, and plans for over 2,500 km of new gas pipelines.

Now moving to the Tropics, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines has just filed a legal complaint to 47 ‘carbon majors’ including Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron. The Commission argues that these companies “should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be ‘eliminated, remedied and prevented’”.  The Commission also calls for an official investigation which has become the latest of a growing number of climate liability cases (e.g. Dutch and New Zealand) being brought against governments and corporations.

Further south here in New Zealand, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment reiterated recently that “there is no question that climate change is by far the most serious environmental issue we face. Moreover, it will have big impacts on virtually every other aspect of our environment.The marine environment is already being affected by climate change and most troubling … is ocean acidification … Climate change is projected to bring more intense and frequent heavy downpours which will exacerbate the problem [of erosion]”.

The government’s latest Climate Change Projections for NZ rang many alarm bells. Yet after reviewing the projections, the Taranaki Regional Council touted the warming temperature as economic opportunities and asserted its inability to address the cause of climate change under the Resource Management Act (RMA), rather than committing to action. Rarely mentioned is that the RMA allows council to consider the reduction of greenhouse gases enabled by renewable energy. The latter, along with investment and support for public transport, agriculture diversification, waste minimization and sustainable communities, should be what councils, central government and businesses are doing.

Photo captions and credits (clockwise from top left):



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