Monday, December 7, 2009

Climate Change and water

I came across an interesting article on the Ottawa Citizen website ( which spoke about climate change and the important of water. Even though water is a basic necessity of life, billions of people all over the world do not have access to safe and portable water, also billions more do not have access to sanitation.
When we talk about the impacts of water from climate change, it often involves melting glaciers, increased flooding, or severe drought. What we do not realize is the our abuse, mismanagement, and treatment of water is actually one of the causes of climate change and environmental destruction. It is hard to believe that water will not be a part of the official agenda at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where government officials from around the world will be talking about ways to reduce emission and adapt to the impact of climate change. As climate change increases, "all of the world's climate refugees will be water refugees. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington argues that in 1995, 166 million people lived in areas lacking sufficient water for basic needs. In 2050, that number will rise to 1.7 billion." This is a staggering statistic considering the number of people without suffcient water for basic needs will rise almost ten fold in just 55 years. Also with the water quantity and quality dropping, this could lead to great food shortages and poverty among rural farmers in the global south. Water is a necessary part of our survival and I believe every person on the planet should have access to adequate supply of clean water. This should never come into question. Many members of the Canadian union for public employees are taking the water crisis message to Copenhagen with members of other groups in order to try and make it a key element in the climate talks.
The private sector is also attempting to get into the water business. On a recent trip the Canadian water industry minister Tony Clement dogmatized the water crisis situation then made a sales pitch promoting Canadian technological solutions which would not only delete government protection of freshwater but, also take water out of the hands of communities and sell them to corporations seeking large profits. This has already begun in Michigan with their Blue Economy. The rules of trade are much stronger than international human rights laws or environmental agreements and they undermine the power of government to protect the environment and public policy against their right to make a profit. "The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, allows foreign investors to sue governments if a social or environmental policy were to restrict profits."
We must start to promote ways to make water a central aspect of maintaining healthy communities. Every person has a right to have sufficent clean water for whatever use they deem necessary. Climate change and the coming water shortages must not be allowed to add life to a failed economic model of unregulated free trade. We as a people must learn from the past to adapt to what the future brings. If we do not it could lead to the end of humanity as we know it.

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