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Climate change: a threat to health of the planet and driver of trafficking

  • Published on
    February 28, 2022
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  • Category:
    Human Trafficking
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According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) damning new report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the daily lives of at least 3.3 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change.

The consequences of climate change come with a human cost, driving inequality and, in some cases, leading to new vulnerabilities to exploitation and modern slavery caused by forced climate migration and the loss of livelihoods. Estimations indicate that by 2050 there will be more than 143 million climate refugees.

“An atlas of human suffering”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said:

“I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this. The IPCC Report is an atlas of human suffering”

The report warns that climate change is causing dangerous disruption in nature and is affecting billions of people, stressing the urgency to act. Over the course of 18 Chapters, the researchers add evidence that if human-induced global warming is not limited to a couple of tenths of a degree more, “an Earth already battered by deadly heat, fires, floods and drought in the coming decades will degrade in 127 ways, some of them potentially irreversible.”

Hans Poertner, Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out:

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet”

The nexus between climate change and modern slavery

 In 2021 following the IPCC’s report warning of “code red for humanity”, Freedom United put the spotlight on how climate change is also increasing modern slavery risks. As one of Freedom United’s advisors, Kevin Bales, notes:

“The study of human rights (and slavery in particular), and the study of its impacts on the climate have been falsely seen as distinct and separate issues and areas of inquiry”.

In our joint letter of October 26, 2021, we urged the President of COP26 to tackle instances where forced labor is used in mineral extraction and manufacture of solar panels and renewable energy supply chains, among other recommendations.

Although in the IPCC’s full report key terms such as “modern slavery” or “forced labor” are not mentioned, the report explores the correlation between environment, gender and human trafficking:

During and after extreme weather events, women, girls and LGBTQI people are at increased risk of domestic violence, harassment, sexual violence and trafficking. For example, early marriage is used as a coping strategy for managing the effects of extreme weather events”.

Climatologist Katharine Hayhoe, of The Nature Conservancy, called the IPCC Climate Change Report “Your House is On Fire” report. The voices of different leaders are joining together in response to all the concrete signs of threats that have been warned over decades and have now become a reality.

At Freedom United we are working to raise awareness of how increased environmental instability will increase the risk of trafficking and forced labor. It is time to act now. We need holistic action for sustainable change.

You can follow the conversation on social media using the hashtags #IPCC #ClimateReport #COP27 and learn more about the links between climate change and modern slavery in our blog.

Take action by joining the campaign calling on world leaders to ensure clean energy is free from forced labor. Sign the petition today.  


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