Kids Win a Case Giving Right of Protection to the Amazon Rainforest

It looked like a long shot when 25 kids, aged 7 to 26, sued the government of Colombia for failing to protect the environment.

Never before had a climate change case been heard in Latin America, the charges seemed too far-reaching, and environmental degradation has been accelerating in the country in recent years.

But after hearing the case, the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the children and now the government must come up with an action plan for stopping deforestation in the Amazon and escalate its fight against climate change, according to the human rights groups Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiff’s case.

Environmental and agricultural ministries across both national and local governments are required to take part in this project, Reuters reports.

“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations, and jurisprudence on the matter, that the Colombian State has not efficiently tackled the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the court said.

The judges said that the forest is an “entity subject of rights,” essentially conferring human rights upon the vast and varied ecosystem, according to Reuters.

Read More: India’s Most Polluted Rivers Are Now Legally Humans

“This is a historic ruling both nationally and internationally,” César Rodríguez Garavito, director of Dejusticia and the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

“At the national level, it categorically recognizes that future generations are subject to rights, and it orders the government to take concrete actions to protect the country and planet in which they live,” he added.

amazon rainforest.jpgImage: Pixabay: rosinakaiser

The outcome of the case could reverberate around the world: A series of cases, mostly led by youths, are taking off in multiple other countries, according to Reuters.

These cases could be bolstered by international agreements that countries entered.

Read More: Major Climate Change Lawsuits Expected to Make Splash in 2018

Through the Paris Climate Agreement, 195 countries around the world have vowed to fight climate change. Although this particular agreement is voluntary in nature, the judges in Colombia viewed it as binding enough to invoke it in their ruling.

And as the effects of climate change become more apparent around the world, the argument made by young people that governments are threatening their future may gain momentum.

Read More: Meet Tia Hatton, a Global Citizen of America Who’s Suing Trump Over Climate Change

“Deforestation is threatening the fundamental rights of those of us who are young today and will face the impacts of climate change the rest of our lives,” the plaintiffs wrote.

“We are at a critical moment given the speed at which deforestation is happening in the Colombian Amazon,” they added. “The government’s lack of capacity and planning as well as its failure to protect the environment makes the adoption of urgent measures necessary.”

Global Citizen campaigns to empower youth activists around the world and you can take action on this issue here.

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BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Colombia’s highest court has told the government it must take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation, in what campaigners said was an historic moment that should help conserve forests and counter climate change.

In their ruling on Thursday, the judges said that Colombia – which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined – saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016.

“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations … that the Colombian state has not efficiently addressed the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the supreme court said.

The ruling comes after a group of 25 young plaintiffs, ranging in age from seven to 26, filed a lawsuit against the government in January demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment.

The plaintiffs had said the government’s failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardized their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.

Bogota-based rights group Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiffs’ case, said the verdict meant it was the first time a lawsuit of this kind had been ruled upon favorably in Latin America.

“The Supreme Court’s decision marks an historical precedent in terms of climate change litigation,” said Camila Bustos, one of the plaintiffs and a researcher at Dejusticia.

In its ruling, the court recognized Colombia’s Amazon as an “entity subject of rights”, which means that the rainforest has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

“The ruling states the importance of protecting the rights of future generations, and even declares the Amazon a subject of rights,” Bustos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The court ordered the government – both at the local and national level – along with the environment and agriculture ministries and environmental authorities to come up with action plans within four months to combat deforestation in the Amazon.

The Amazon’s destruction leads to “imminent and serious” damage to children and adults for both present and future generations, the judges said.

The ruling stated that forests were being felled to make way for more grazing and agricultural land, as well as coca crops – the raw ingredient for cocaine – illegal mining and logging.

Deforestation is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, which damages ecosystems and water sources and leads to land degradation, the court said.

“Without a healthy environment, subjects of law and living beings in general will not be able to survive, let alone safeguard those rights for our children or for future generations,” the ruling said.

The lawsuit follows a surge in litigation around the world demanding action or claiming damages over the impact of climate change – from rising sea levels to pollution.

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

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Ocean Acidification Causing Coral Reefs to Be Less Resilient to Climate Change

OCEANS

A changing climate is altering oceans in major ways and coral reefs around the planet may not be able to adapt to survive.

Ocean acidification (OA) occurs when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed by seawater, resulting in a chemical reaction that reduces pH and calcium carbonate levels vital for the growth and repair of calcifying organisms like coral, explains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Publishing their work in Nature Climate Change, researchers examined four species of coral and two types of calcifying algae over the course of the year in order to determine how they might bounce back from stressful conditions.

“We found that corals and coralline algae weren’t able to acclimatize to ocean acidification,” said study author Malcolm McCulloch, adding that that the effects were rapid and persistent.

At least one-quarter of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from coal, oil and gas dissolves in the ocean, according to the Smithsonian Institute. Changes in the ocean’s chemistry since the Industrial Revolution have been recorded at an unprecedented rate. In the last two centuries alone, ocean water has become 30 percent more acidic — not even natural buffering can keep up.

Because seawater contains high levels of dissolved substances, Woods Hole Oceanic Institute notes that ocean waters have a slightly alkaline, or basic, pH of around 8.2. As more carbon builds up in the atmosphere, we see higher levels being absorbed in seawater to form carbonic acid, which breaks down to become more acidic as the pH level drops. Calcifying organisms like coral grow by adding calcium carbonate from the seawater to their shells or skeletons, but the researchers note that some species are disproportionately affected in their ability to repair or grow as these levels drop.

“The results also confirm that Ocean acidification could have repercussions on the competition between species which could, in turn, affect the ecological function of reefs,” said lead author Steeve Comeau. In their findings, two of the species were found to be resistant to OA from the start of the experiment while two others were too sensitive to acclimate. Those species that were able to adjust have different physiological mechanisms at play, but the team notes that they aren’t sure what they are or how they work.

Coral respond to bleaching events caused by stress from pollution, overexposure to sunlight, extreme low tides, and changes in ocean temperatures by repairing via this calcification process. However, a 2018 study found that OA impedes the thickening or growing process of coral and decreases skeleton density, making them more vulnerable to breaking. Climate change and the advent of the Anthropocene are only expected to worsen these effects. Oceana notes that before the Industrial Revolution, about 98 percent of coral reefs were surrounded by waters with ideal levels of aragonite, but today the proportion is less than half. A study published reported by CBS found that climate change has caused an 89 percent decrease in new coral in the Great Barrier Reef, further validating that coral reefs are threatened by climate change and its repercussions.

Long-term assessments of OA are scarce and the scientific community is limited in its understanding of how it impacts corals and coralline algae. We do know that if there is a 20 percent increase in current carbon dioxide levels over the next two decades, corals will grow slower and will be less able to overcome even normal pressures.

21-Year-Old Filmmaker Takes Audiences on a Provocative Journey to Save Coral Reefs http://ow.ly/1bb530eGnjl  @HealTheBay @therightblue
21-Year-Old Filmmaker Takes Audiences on a Provocative Journey to Save Coral Reefs

Sea of Life asks audiences to imagine a world worth fighting for. What could this world look like if we got things right? What if we made this planet beautiful for us and all species?

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