Should We Charge Fossil Fuel Companies With Human Rights Violations?

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Disasters are causing a lot of damage and loss of life. (Photo: Lieut. Commander Mark Moran/NOAA Corps/NMAO/AOC [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

Shea's note: I'm moving to the big city of Portland, Maine, this week and taking a few days off from writing to pack and move. Some of my green blogger pals are helping me out by writing a few guest posts. Today's post comes courtesy of Adam Shake. Read his post and find links to his work at the bottom.

A recent report claims that climate change disasters kill about 300,000 people a year and cause about $125 billion in economic losses.

The Global Humanitarian Forum also estimates that 325 million people are seriously affected by climate change — a number it says will double by 2030, as more people are hit by natural disasters or suffer environmental degradation caused by climate change.

How big a deal is this? The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution proposed by the Maldives to study the relationship between human rights and climate change.

The resolution states that “Global warming violates human rights of millions of people, especially in countries vulnerable to climate change such as the low-lying island state of the Maldives.”

The Global Humanitarian Forum said 99 percent of all people who die due to climate change related causes live in developing countries, even though those countries generate less than 1 percent of total emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

The report used existing data on weather-related disasters, population trends and economic forecasts to draw its conclusions. It was released ahead of climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, next week that will lead to a new global treaty on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen in December.

If we take certain scientific facts as truths, such as:

  • The burning of fossil fuels leads to excess levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere.
  • Excess levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere are a major contributor to climate change and global warming.
  • Climate change is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year,

Then we need to ask ourselves who's responsible for these deaths. Is it the fossil fuel companies who supply unsustainable and unhealthy products? Or is it the consumer who over-consumes these products?

I think that it is a combination of both. I know my electricity doesn't come from a switch on the wall. It comes from a mountain with its top blown off in West Virginia. I know there is a price to pay every time I fill the tank of my car or turn on a light switch. But we can't go back to living in the dark ages.

What we can do is be conscious consumers while cutting back on the impact that we make. Until we figure out how to move forward into a more sustainable and renewable future, I'll be taking public transportation and seeing how long I can go this year, without turning on the air conditioner.

Author bio: Adam Shake works in Washington, D.C., and is an avid outdoorsman, environmental activist and advocate. He is the founder and president of the popular website Twilight Earth and has recently acquired the eco-tech and green gadget website Eco Tech Daily. Adam can be found on Twitter @adamshake or @twilightearth.