Sunday, June 16, 2024

Is protection from climate change a human right?

The European Court of Human Rights says it is but it is a body of fragile auhority, often criticized in Britain.

It is grotesque that a cluster of ill-qualified judges, several of them drawn from the most corrupt and ill-governed nations in Europe, should abuse their powers to lay down law, quite literally, to the Government of Britain.

The judges are political appointees from most member states of the EU. They incliude includes Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos from Greece, Dragoljub Popovic from Serbia, Nona Tsotoria from Georgia and Nebojsa Vucinic from Montenegro

The Swiss government has disregarded the ruling

In Case of Verein Klimatseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland deliveredon 9 April 2024, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, subject to the panic about climate change which for our elites justifies all things, has pushed the anti-democratic potential of human rights law to what might prove to be a limit. Four women, in their seventies or eighties when these proceedings were begun in Switzerland, complained that they had health problems caused by heatwaves that in turn had been caused by climate change. These women and a political association, Verein Klimatseniorinnen Schweiz, of which they were members, did not argue that the Swiss government lacked a commitment to mitigate climate change. No, incredibly they asked the judges to descend into the political theatre by arguing the government’s response was inadequate – so inadequate that it violated the Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention and the Right to Respect for Privacy and Family Life under Article 8. Staggeringly, the association succeeded under Article 8, these judges now opting to gainsay political choices around energy and environmental policies based on the above right. Whatever that is it ain’t democracy.

Legal recognition of human rights requires limits to be placed on the occasions when such recognition may prevent the discharge of public functions. If not interpreted in terms of the ‘negative liberty’ of protection against authoritarian governments that would do violence to their opponents, a Right to Life has enormous, perhaps universal, potential scope as a ‘positive right’ against harm. A Right to Private and Family Life interpreted so as to decouple ‘life’ from ‘private’ and indeed from ‘family’ has a similar if smaller potential. That national policies might be challenged because four elderly women, distressed by the weather, attributed their distress to global atmospheric changes caused by industrial civilisation might once have served as a cautionary, if satirical, hypothetical. The Articles 2 and 8 rights are therefore qualified by countervailing public interest considerations. Restrictive conditions also must be met for an Article 2 application even to be ‘admissible’, with similar if less strict conditions applying to Article 8.

To be admissible, the individual applications of the four women had to establish that the women were ‘victims’, and the Court found their arguments too vaguely remote. But the Court then regarded this as the very ground for allowing a political association to make those same arguments in a more general manner, thereby finding that the association was itself a ‘victim’! Of course, if the Swiss government suppressed the organisation, there would have been a legal issue. But this was far from the case, and the effect of the ECtHR judgment is to allow the association to enforce its policy preferences through legal proceedings. The Court did not require the association to meet the stricter Article 2 admissibility conditions but allowed it to proceed under Article 8. It then quite blatantly treated the issues as ones of a positive right to life. Of course, if one is dead, one doesn’t have a family life, but this shouldn’t mean one can make anyway tenuous Article 2 arguments under Article 8!

Climate change mitigation involves huge costs. The attempted pace of mitigation therefore must be determined by balances struck across the entire economy. The ECtHR evaluated the balances the Swiss government had struck and said in the most general terms ‘speed up’. Mitigation is an enormously complex technical matter itself beyond any court, but much more importantly it is a political matter of giving effect to the electorate’s choices about how fast it wants to go. The ECtHR allowed an Article 8 application to proceed in order to, under cover of law, politically accelerate the democratically chosen pace.

In doing all this, the Court went against important themes of Convention jurisprudence, and one of the 17 Grand Chamber Judges strongly dissented. But, albeit that they themselves were clearly hot and bothered by climate change, the majority was in line with a modern Convention jurisprudence which sees no limit whatsoever to judicial supremacy – save what is politically possible to get away with.

The separation of powers can work productively only in a constitutional ‘spirit’ of ‘comity’. Checks upon excesses must be balanced by respect for each branch of state’s proper powers. Whether the constitution is one of ‘judicial supremacy’ or of ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ has important consequences for the way balances are struck. That choice of ‘starting position’ is open to rational debate, though this writer thinks democratic decision-making is clearly preferable to rule by judges. But, whatever the starting position, comity is essential.

The meretriciousness and authoritarianism of this ECtHR judgment therefore is of grave concern. It substitutes unworthy ingenuity of professedly legal argument in pursuit of a political objective for a wise concern with comity. This disregard of the proper spirit of constitutional argument may well take the subjection of democracy to politicised human rights jurisdiction to a crisis point.The problems inherent in enforcing all ECtHR decisions will be greatly magnified in this instance. But if this decision is given effect, it will have a most damaging effect in the countries under the Court’s jurisdiction. And because it has led the world in mitigation of climate change, these effects would first be manifested in the UK.

The mitigation efforts the UK has already made have incurred enormous costs, but so far UK citizens have largely experienced these as waste funded by stealth taxation and as lost opportunities for growth. Any determined pursuit of net zero from now on will cause undeniable hardship through absolute reductions of wealth and amenity. A majority of the electorate seeking to avoid hardship by bringing democratic pressures for change will find that such change is deemed by unelected judges to be a human rights violation. There will be no constitutional mechanism for the release of these pressures. The majority will be faced with a choice between resignation to hardship or disobedience.

This writer hopes and believes that as it muddles through, the UK will withdraw from the European Convention and make corollary changes to its domestic laws. He finds it incredible to now have to write that. Yet such is the hegemony of left-wing authoritarian rule in the UK, of which anti-democratic human rights law is a central pillar, that he has little hope or belief that the UK will in fact withdraw from the Convention, with its concomitant juristocracy and rule by unelected elites. And he is very concerned about the pressures that will build.


Much nitpicking at a country that defies global warming panic

Days after being sworn in as president of the Maldives in November, Mohamed Muizzu declared that his citizens would not run from rising seas.

"I can categorically say that we definitely don't need to buy land or even lease land from any country," Mr Muizzu told reporters, dispelling warnings by experts and former leaders that hundreds of thousands of Maldivians could become climate refugees.

"If we need to increase the area for living or other economic activity, we can do that. We are self-sufficient to look after ourselves."

Area for living is in short supply in the Maldives, a country whose 90,000-square-kilometre territory is 99 per cent ocean.

Almost half the population resides in the capital, Malé, one of the world's most densely populated cities, which occupies an island that can be circumnavigated on foot in 90 minutes.

The average household has 4.7 people – almost twice that of Australia.

Projections indicate that the nation's 1,200 islands, which have an average altitude of just 1.5 metres, could in a worst-case climate scenario be completely submerged by the year 2100.

Maldivian governments have long responded to this problem with a seemingly straightforward solution: building more land.

Over the past 40 years, the country has expanded its landmass by about 10 per cent (30 square kilometres), dredging sand from the sea floor and dumping it in shallow lagoons.

This approach has been a point of national pride for leaders and government officials in the Maldives.

In an opinion piece published by The Guardian last month, Mr Muizzu extolled so-called land reclamation projects as "true climate adaptation if ever I saw it", and called for more international funding to help the Maldives shore up its defences against climate impacts.

Those on the ground, however, tell a different story — describing a devastating trend that is riding roughshod over environmental law, destroying the Maldives' natural landscape and damaging local communities to prop up a luxury tourism industry.

Aishath Azfa, a graduate researcher at the University of Melbourne who grew up in Malé and has more than 15 years experience working in the Maldives' development planning sector, described land scarcity as an "ongoing chronic issue that all governments are struggling to find a solution to".

"In the Maldives, because the land is so scarce, there's really not enough land for people to live decently and have access to housing," Ms Azfa told the ABC.

"When there's no land you create land – but when you create land you are taking loans."

Within the past six months, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have warned that rising public debt could place the country under severe economic strain.

Ms Azfa pointed out that such economic difficulties are likely to further inflame the Maldives' climate vulnerability, which is so often cited by leaders like Mr Muizzu as a way to unlock funding in the first place.

"Climate change is used as a selling point to access these finances," she said.

"But climate change is just the front they put [up] to make a compelling argument that, 'We are very vulnerable, please give us this money so that we can create a safe island.'

"Are people really benefiting from it? Is it equally distributed? Who are the winners and who are the losers?"

Ms Azfa said "the everyday person is losing".

The winners, according to her and several other Maldivians that the ABC spoke to, are politicians, the social elite, and the contractors and resort developers connected to them.

"We have more tourism resorts than local inhabited islands now," Abdulla Adam, an environmental advocate from the Maldives, told the ABC.

Mr Adam is from Kulhudhuffushi, an island in the country's far north where, between 2017 and 2018, the Maldivian government overrode environmental regulators and buried huge swaths of mangroves to build an airport.

Following the destruction of the mangroves, which act as a natural buffer against waves, tides and erosion, flooding on Kulhudhuffushi became more frequent, according to residents.

As Mr Adam put it: "We haven't seen this intensity in the past."

Elsewhere across the country, reclamation projects are having a range of impacts on the natural landscape, damaging lagoons, fishing grounds and sensitive coral reef ecosystems.

"The environmental cost of these projects is well documented," Patricia Gossman, an associate director for Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Asia division who has worked on the Maldives since 2018, told the ABC.

"It's not that communities don't want some development … but if [these projects are] carried out in a way that ends up harming the fishing communities or other businesses that people depend on, then they're not really to the benefit of the communities."

Some development projects have proven more beneficial than others.

In 2004, the government inaugurated Hulhumalé, a 4-square-kilometre artificial island built just north of Malé to relieve acute housing pressures and provide haven from rising seas.

Over the past two decades the project, nicknamed the "City of Hope", has served as an effective catchment area for the growing number of people spilling over from the capital.

According to the latest census data in 2022, it has a population of more than 65,700 people.

It is for this reason that, despite some environmental impact, experts and international bodies have lauded Hulhumalé, with the Global Centre on Adaptation describing it as a "monumental climate adaptation effort [that] raises hope in a threatened paradise".

Many believe most other reclamation projects, however, only threaten that paradise further.

Mr Adam explained that previously land reclamation was only done to create residential opportunities, as with the Hulhumalé project.

Things changed, he said, under president Abdulla Yameen, a close ally of President Muizzu who was jailed in 2019 after it was found he accepted bribes to grant a lease on an islet for tourism development.

Mr Yameen had his jail sentence overturned this year and was released in April.

It was during Mr Yameen's presidency, between 2013 and 2018, that the government started creating new artificial islands for the primary purpose of tourism, Mr Adam said — "not for the local inhabitants to live on, but rather for development of new tourist resorts".

It's an approach that has attracted controversy — not least from the Maldives environmental watchdog, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Ibrahim Naeem, the group's director general, told the Maldives Parliament in 2019 that "reclamation is not something we should ever do".

Mr Naeem clarified that he was not talking about the expansion of inhabited islands where land is scarce, but rather the reclaiming of land to build airports or tourist resorts which he said causes "severe" and "irreversible" environmental damage.

Yet despite ongoing calls for change, sand is still being dredged and islands built for purposes of tourism.


We Can and Must Adjust to Climate Change – and Not Kill Billions

Paul Driessen

Earth’s climate has changed many times over four billion years, and 99.999% of those changes occurred before humans were on this planet. During that short time, humans adjusted their housing, clothing and agriculture in response to climate changes. Can we now control the climate?

Except for decades-long droughts or massive volcanic explosions that ended some civilizations, humanity generally adjusted successfully – through a Pleistocene Ice Age, a Little Ice Age, a Dust Bowl and other natural crises. Numerous state high temperature records were set in Dust Bowl years.

After putting our current “microsecond” on Earth into its proper perspective, we might therefore ask:

* With today’s vastly superior technologies, why would humanity possibly be unable to adjust to even a few-degrees temperature increase, especially with more atmospheric carbon dioxide helping plants grow faster and better, providing more food for animals and people?

* How dare the political, bureaucratic, academic and media ruling elites – who propagate GIGO computer predictions, calculated myths and outright disinformation – tell us we must implement their “green” policies immediately and universally ... or humanity won’t survive manmade climate influences that are minuscule compared to the planetary, solar and galactic forces that really control Earth’s climate?

* How dare those elites tell Earth’s poorest people and nations they have no right to seek energy, health and living standards akin to what developed countries already enjoy?

Scientists, geophysicists and engineers have yet to explain or prove what caused the slight change in global temperatures we are experiencing today – much less the huge fluctuations that brought five successive mile-high continental glaciers, and sea levels that plunged 400 feet each time (because seawater was turned to ice), interspersed with warm interglacial periods like the one we’re in now.

Moreover, none of the dire predictions of cataclysmic temperature increases, sea level rise, and more frequent and intense storms have actually occurred, despite decades of climate chaos fearmongering.

Earth continues to experience climate changes, from natural forces and/or human activity. However, adjusting to small temperature, sea level and precipitation changes would inflict far less harm on our planet’s eight billion people than would ridding the world of fossil fuels that provide 80% of our energy and myriad products that helped to nearly double human life expectancy over the past 200 years.

Today, with fuels, products, housing and infrastructures that didn’t even exist one or two centuries ago, we can adjust to almost anything.

When it’s cold, we heat insulated homes and wear appropriate winter clothing; when it’s hot, we use air conditioning and wear lighter clothing. When it rains, we remain dry inside or with umbrellas; when it snows, we stay warm indoors or ski, bobsled and build snowmen.

Climate changes may impact us in many ways. But eliminating coal, oil and natural gas – with no 24/7/365 substitutes to replace them – would be immoral and evil. It would bring extreme shortages of reliable, affordable, essential energy, and of over 6,000 essential products derived from fossil fuels.

It would inflict billions of needless deaths from diseases, malnutrition, extreme heat and cold, and wild weather – on a planet where the human population has grown from 1 billion to 8 billion since Col. Edwin Drake drilled the first oilwell in 1859.

* Weather-related fatalities have virtually disappeared, thanks to accurate forecasting, storm warnings, modern buildings, and medicines and other petroleum-based products that weren’t available even 100 years ago.

* Fossil fuels for huge long-range jets and merchant ships move people, products, food and medications to support global trade, mobility, health and lifestyle choices. Indeed, more than 50,000 merchant ships, 20,000 commercial aircraft and 50,000 military aircraft use fuels manufactured from crude oil.

* Food to feed Americans and humanity would be far less abundant and affordable without the fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and tractor and transportation fuels that come from oil and natural gas.

* Everything powered by electricity utilizes petroleum-based derivatives: wind turbine blades and nacelle covers, wire insulation, iPhone and computer housings, defibrillators, myriad EV components and more.

Petroleum industry history demonstrates that crude oil was virtually useless until it could be transformed in refineries and chemical plants into derivatives that are the foundation for plastics, solvents, medications and other products that support industries, health and living standards. The same is true for everything else that comes out of holes in the ground.

Plants and rocks, metals and minerals have no inherent value unless we learn how to cook them, extract metals from them, bend and shape them, or otherwise convert them into something we can use.

Similarly, the futures of poor developing countries hinge on their ability to harness foundational elements: fuels, electricity, minerals and feed stocks made from fossil fuels and other materials that are the basis for all buildings, infrastructures and other technologies in industrialized countries.

For the 80% of humanity in Africa, Asia and Latin America who still live on less than $10 a day – and the billions who still have little to no access to electricity – life is severely complicated and compromised by the hypocritical “green” agendas of wealthy country elites who have benefited so tremendously from fossil fuels since the modern industrial era began around 1850. Before that:

* Life spans were around 40 years, and people seldom travelled more than 100 miles from their birthplaces.

* There was no electricity, since generating, transmitting and utilizing this amazing energy resource requires technologies made from oil and natural gas derivatives.

* That meant the world had no modern transportation, hospitals, medicines and medical equipment, kitchen and laundry appliances, radio and other electronics, cell phones and other telecommunications, air and space travel, central heating and air conditioning, or year-round shipping and preservation of meats, fruits and vegetables, to name just a few things most of us just take for granted.

There are no silver-bullet solutions to save people from natural or manmade climate changes. However, adjusting to those fluctuations is the only solution that minimizes fatalities which would be caused by the callous or unthinking elimination of the petroleum fuels and building blocks that truly make life possible and enjoyable, instead of nasty, brutish and short. The late Steven Lyazi explained it perfectly in his own column for Townhall from 2017, "Solar Ovens and Sustained Poverty for Africa."


Fracturing Thwaites Ice-Shelf--Just a Normal Function of Nature

In case you’ve lost sleep worrying about the latest reports of melting ice in Antarctica, go back to bed and enjoy a good snooze. There’s nothing to the story. Here’s why.

University of California, Davis professor Eric Rignot just published more data he asserts support the notion that the Thwaites ice shelf is in imminent danger of self-destruction. He further asserts "warm" ocean currents (that are not warm or even tepid by ordinary standards) have undercut the massive ice shelf that extends into the Amundsen Sea along the western margin of Antarctica.

This is what glaciers do. They creep downslope from higher elevation into lower geographic regions where latent heat finally causes them to melt, or, as in the example of an active ice shelf, they calve into a free-floating iceberg to drift with ocean currents carrying them equator-ward.

Dr. Rignot expects the media, along with lay readership, will readily accept his brand of climate alarmism.

I and others addressed this canard several years ago, but the principals, Rignot and allies, persist in efforts to persuade any who will pay attention and particularly those who issue grants to fund their research projects.

The West Antarctic ice sheet and its subsidiary Thwaites glacier overlie an active volcanic region of the Earth's crust. Volcanoes are observed, from seismic observations, to be venting beneath the surface of the glacial ice. This fact is conveniently ignored by the authors.

Independent studies have implicated, not so much the impinging sea currents, but geothermal heat rising upward through the crust from the mantle below as the likely cause of the observed melting of the ice shelf and anticipated calving of another large block of ice. Once freed from grounding and afloat, it will be referred to as an “ice berg.”

But the process of melting at the terminus of a glacier, whether it be on land or at the edge of the ocean needs to be properly understood. Glacial ice flows (very slowly) down gradient under the influence of gravity (it behaves somewhat akin to a viscous fluid). In the instance of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland, they continue their downhill courses until meeting the ocean where melting and calving of icebergs occur.

On arrival at the shoreline, the outward flow of ice, urged oceanward by additional glacial ice arriving behind it, forms an ice shelf often extending some distance out over the adjoining sea. The glacier behind continues to push outward until a portion of the shelf finally weakens and develops a crack. The crack deepens and a block of ice, if not securely grounded to land, breaks free and floats away as an iceberg. The 'berg then melts in warmer water as it is carried along toward the Equator by ocean currents. One such iceberg, after breaking free from Greenland in the North Atlantic, brought down the Titanic in April 1912.

The mass of ice (water) lost by calving is continuously being made up by sparse snowfall that falls across the broad expanse of highlands in the interior of the continent.

In fact, if the polar climate were to warm somewhat, the relative humidity would increase, inducing a higher precipitation rate over the interior. During past warmer periods (speaking relatively for Antarctica) increased snowfall is documented from the ice-core samples taken at the interior Vostok station operated by Russian scientists.

Counter intuitively, a warming climate over Antarctica (keeping in mind that most of its frigid interior never reaches a temperature above freezing) would result in the formation of more, not less snow falling on the affected polar ice cap, sufficient to make up for calving losses and helping to maintain a stable sea level.

Rignot points out correctly that if the entire West Antarctic ice shelf were to melt (irrespective of the primary cause), sea level would rise by an estimated two feet. That eventuality would cause disruption for human populations living in certain low-lying lands at a number of locations around the globe. But the overwhelming portion of Antarctica's landed ice is currently (and permanently) resident on the main continent that accounts for some 90% of all landed ice on the planet. Only the melting of landed ice would contribute to sea-level rise.

The Vostok corings also show that at no time during the past 600,000 years has Antarctica been ice free despite several prolonged interglacial periods when temperatures around the globe exceeded those experienced during the previous 10,000 years of the Holocene up to the present.

It is highly unlikely that any temperature rise that can be reasonably anticipated during the next century or two would be sufficient to cause significant melting of the main body of ice now covering Antarctica. The UN/IPCC climate models are shown to be not up to the task of making reliably accurate predictions and should be discounted.

In fact, it is believed by geologists that Antarctica has had a permanent ice cap for more than three million years, subsequent to the closing off of the Panamanian Strait that once separated North America and South America. The tectonic closing effected the termination of a prior free circulation of warmer equatorial water about the southern polar continent.

It is a futile and patently nonsensical effort to attempt to restrain climate change by enforcing draconian restrictions on usage of fossil fuels in order to lower CO2 emissions to the proposed net zero level being promoted by the UN/IPCC and the US government.

If every significant source of CO2 being emitted to the atmosphere were somehow to be eliminated (an impossible dream), the Thwaites ice shelf would quite possibly continue to melt because of the uncontrollable volcanism in progress beneath the ice.

We need less of the brand of climate fear-mongering that originates from academic centers in California and in many institutions elsewhere.

Will "Doomsday" arrive tomorrow for the Thwaites ice shelf or the entire West Antarctic ice cap for that matter? Not likely.




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