This series of blog posts is exploring how human rights will be affected by the impact of climate change. This week I am looking at the right to health.
The right to health is not the same as the right to being healthy – it means that everyone should have access to “timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality”. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, about 150 million people suffer financial catastrophe annually, and 100 million are pushed below the poverty line as a result of health care expenditure. We do not realize that our right to health and the inability to protect this actually perpetuates inequality.
Climate change is not commonly linked to how it will affect our health or right to health. But we have already discussed how it will affect our right to food and water, both necessary for human life to survive and be healthy. So it is only natural to more closely examine how this will directly impact our right to health.
“Although few people are aware of the impact climate change may have on their health, the health effects are serious and widespread. Disease, injury and death can result from climate-induced natural disasters, heat-related illness, pest- and waterborne diseases, air and water pollution and damage to crops and drinking water sources.
Children, the poor, the elderly, and those with a weak or impaired immune system are especially vulnerable.”
What could this look like? To understand this we do not have to look any further than what is already occurring. The UN Chronicle looked at the impact of climate change on health, and noted:
“As early as 2000, the World Health Organization attributed 2.4 per cent of worldwide diarrhea and 6 per cent of malaria cases to climate change. The first large scale, quantifiable impacts on human health are likely to be changes to the geographic range and seasonality of some infectious diseases, including vector-borne infections such as malaria and dengue fever and food-borne infections such as salmonellosis, which peak in warmer months. We have also begun to identify as “climate change casualties” the victims of extreme weather events, such as the 27,000 deaths associated with abnormally high temperatures in the European summer of 2003.
However, the future public health consequences loom even larger.”
Health consequences are both a humane and financial concern. If we do not include efforts to mitigate the effects climate change will have on health in the talks in Paris, our health care systems globally will be burdened with trying to manage a sharp increase.
In order to properly brace for the effects climate change will have on humanity, we need a comprehensive picture of what that looks like. The right to health is the third of a series of six blogs I will share with you as the Paris conference quickly approaches. I will continue to look at how climate change is a threat to other human rights over the next few weeks, and welcome your feedback.
Two weeks ago,I wroteabout how the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found multiple links between climate change and how its effects stand toviolate human rights, particularly those already living in poverty. One of those links is the threat climate change poses to the right to food.
“The right to adequatefood as a human rightwas first formally recognized by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) from 1948, as a part of the right to a decent standard of living.”
The right to food, like the right to water which wediscussed last week, is necessary for human life. It seems like an obvious matter of concern – if people do not have food they cannot survive. Yet the protection of this right is already so difficult to sustain.
The right to food requires all around attention and the constant protection of four major areas of concern: food production, food access, food utilization, and nutrition. These will all be affected by, and put under greater threat, by climate change.
According to the World Bank, 702 million people still live in extreme poverty, and793 million people are undernourishedaccording to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI). These numbers come after two decades of tireless work by humanitarian workers that lifted200 million people out of hunger, so they are seen as numbers of progress. But over the next two decades, the effects of climate change threaten to reverse the work that has been done to combat the threats to the right to food and make the situation a lot worse for millions of people around the world.
The UN World Food Program is so concerned with the effects of climate change on food security that it stated: “Among themost significant impacts of climate change is the potential increase of food insecurity and malnutrition.”
This crisis will see its most significant impacts in rural Africa, but it will also have profound affects here in Canada. Shifts in landforms will change the processes with which our northern communities access their food. Trails will shift due to weather fluctuations and new transportation will have to be accommodated. This will have very real effects for Canadians and the global community – food scarcity is already a battle we are struggling to win. Climate change is increasing the challenges against us in this fight.
In 2012, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council prepared a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the Official Country Mission to Canada. The document, titledInuit and the Right to Food, raised their concerns about how climate change will affect the Inuit peoples:
“Although climate change is being felt on a global scale, the Arctic is on the frontlines of environmental change. Animal species such as caribou are facing a variety of climate related changes in their ranges. Reduced quality of food sources, including berries are already being observed. Safety is now a concern for many hunters because of increased accident rates due to sea ice thinning and unpredictable weather patterns. These changes are continuing to adversely impacting Inuit who 9 depend on country food not only for sustenance and to support the local economy, but also as the basis for cultural and social identity.”
In order to properly brace for the effects climate change will have on humanity, we need a comprehensive picture of what that looks like. The right to food is the second of a series of six blogs I will share with you as the Paris conference quickly approaches. I will continue to look at how climate change is a threat to other human rights over the next few weeks, and welcome your feedback.
Last week I wrote about how the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found multiple links between climate change and how its effects stand toviolate human rights, particularly by those already living in poverty. One of those links is the threat climate change poses to the right to water.
1 in 10 people lack access to safe water, and 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More peoplehave mobile phones than a toilet. According to the World Economic Forum in January 2015, the water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society.
Floods, droughts, changes in temperate and extreme fluctuations are already creating challenges for so many people in the world. This will result in increased water scarcity, contamination, and spread of diseases.
In many countries, women and girlscarry the responsibilityfor collecting water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning, and living. In our world today, nearly one billion people already lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. Climate change is only going to make weather conditions more volatile, and threaten more people’s rights to water and sanitation.
The UN defines the right to water as “the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.” This also includes the right to sanitation: “In all spheres of life everyone has the right to physical and economic access to sanitation which is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable, provides privacy and ensures dignity.”
Despite this reality and the certainty that the right to water for so many stands to be at threat under climate change, water has not been considered seriously enough in climate change negotiations.
A UN position paper argued for change at the 2009 Climate Change Conference: A set ofrecommendationswere laid out, including the “recognition of the pivotal role of water, including its human rights dimensions, in adapting to climate change in order to increase resilience and achieve sustainable development.” It is time we adopt those recommendations and take a serious look at the humanitarian effects of climate change.
In order to properly brace for the effects climate change will have on humanity, we need a comprehensive picture of what that looks like. The right to water is the first of a series of six blogs I will share with you as the Paris conference quickly approaches. I will continue to look at how climate change is a threat to other human rights over the next few weeks, and welcome your feedback.
On November 30th, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will begin in Paris. The purpose of the meetings, that will occur over two weeks, is to assess the progress made on combating climate change, and to work to set new goals. Over the next few weeks leading up to the conference, I hope to amplify an important part of the conversation on climate change: to stress how climate change is a human rights issue.
Typically discussions around climate change revolve around the economy, environment, and science. These are all necessary conversations. But more and more information from these spheres demands that we the question: how will this all impact us as humans?
Some studies have been done already, including by the Pentagon who called climate change asecurity issue, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights who found multiple links between climate change and how its effects stand toviolate human rights, particularly by those already living in poverty.
We know the effects of climate change are inevitable. And we know they will be seen in a multitude of ways: food scarcity and water scarcity could be tipping points for mass migration, extreme weather will destroy homes and cities, and shifts in landforms will change agricultural production and demands. The list goes on and on.
Over the next few weeks leading up to the Paris Conference, I hope to amplify the voices of those who are vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. I will explore a few dimensions of how climate change is a human rights issue. I hope we can remind all delegations going to Paris that we are not just talking about the economy or the environment, as important as those both are: we are talking about humanity.
Stay tuned for my weekly blog posts on the different ways climate change will impact human rights. You will also see updates on myInstagram,Twitter, and Facebookaccounts. I encourage you to talk about this with each other, and also welcome your feedback, thoughts, and concerns.
Bilingualism is at the heart of the Canadian identity. It has many benefits, including social, economic and cognitive advantages. I strongly believe that all Canadians should have access to second language training and all should be able to reap the benefits of bilingualism.
From an economic standpoint, bilingualism creates opportunities and improves job prospects, increases median income, and increases trade opportunities. Research has also shown that bilingualism improves cognitive development as it increases creativity, critical thinking skills, mental dexterity and concentration. Bilingualism also makes learning other languages easier. From a social perspective, bilingualism is an asset as it encourages interactions among language communities; it contributes to national cohesion and allows for communication among people from various cultures. A Canada with a more bilingual population would have a stronger global presence.
In 2011-2012, 2.4 million young Canadians were learning French or English as a second language in Canada’s elementary and secondary schools. Approximately 350,000 young anglophones were enrolled in French immersion programs across the country. Furthermore, close to 62,000 students were enrolled in intensive French programs since they were introduced in Canada in 1998. Although the numbers are on the rise for these specialized programs, the proportion of students in public school enrolled in a core French program has decreased, dropping from 53% in 1991 to 44% in 2011.
As well, there is a decline in the proportion of Canadian youth who can hold a conversation in both English and French. 22.6% of young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 19 had knowledge of both official languages in 2011.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of youth who had knowledge of both official languages declined from 23.9% to 22.6%. This issue has to be taken very seriously. The status quo is no longer an option.
Based on those statistics, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, of which I am Chair, undertook a study on the best practices for languages policies and second-language learning in a context of linguistic duality or plurality. In June, the Committee tabled its report titled “Aiming Higher: Increasing bilingualism of our Canadian youth” and made 10 recommendations to improve the situation. These recommendations focussed on four specific areas: active promotion of bilingualism; increased fluency in both official languages; innovative practices; and funding.
As the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation approaches, Canada must take steps to ensure that bilingualism takes its rightful place as a fundamental value across the country. The Senate Committee believes it is important to immediately take measures to improve the status and equality of Canada’s official languages. We are convinced that a firm commitment from the federal government to actively promote bilingualism and improve official-language proficiency across the country is not only desirable, but also essential.