Nel's New Day

February 6, 2014

Climate Change in the Tunisian Constitution

Here on the coast of Oregon, we have had enough snow today to close the schools and keep us in the house—for the second time this year. My partner and I had planned to travel to Portland, but chains are required not only on the state road to the interstate but also on the interstate itself. Global warming deniers would say that the cold is proof that the planet is cooling, not warming. Their grasp of climate, long-term weather conditions, is that it is identical to weather.

Deniers also think that their cold is everyone’s cold. In Alaska, however, an all-time record high for January was 62 degrees. Temperatures across the state were as much as 30 degrees above average during the past month. If these record highs were to continue into the summer, Alaska would see 90+ degree highs. Alaska’s January temperatures come from a ten-month warm air invasion of the Arctic that causes a weakened polar jet stream creating all-time record high temperatures last summer in the state. The anomaly is now called “Arctic Heat Wave.”

One blogger wrote, “The west-east weather train is broken. And a strange south-north train from equator to Arctic is instead set in place.” And the pattern has lasted for almost a whole year. The polar vortex causing extreme cold in January has now split in half by warm air from the south into two separate cold centers. With this pattern, the Arctic and Alaska will continue record high temperatures while the lower 48 states suffer from extreme winter weather.

The Arctic is melting faster than at any time since satellite observations began 35 years ago. A video shows the 2013 meltback. The ice that replaces the melting will melt faster in the future because it’s not as solid, causing a chain reaction of less and less ice. People not at the Arctic might want to shrug off this melting, but they are at risk in the lower 48 states.

Scientist Benjamin Strauss predicts that the warming planet will cause oceans fast to rise at least one foot every decade. A four-foot increase will submerge half the population of 316 cities and towns on the current coastlines, causing about 3.6 million will lose their homes. By the end of the century, an additional 18 million people in 1,400 cities and towns will be affected from a possible rise of 23 feet. Acting now could keep that rise to about 7.5 feet. Check out this interactive map to see the changes.

Deniers  need to know that 97% of the 4,000 papers that analyzed the causes of climate change concluded that humans are causing global climate change. Among 14,000 peer-reviewed studies on climate change, only 24 rejected the phenomenon. In a Scientific American blog, Kyle Hill wrote, “If you put all of the almost 14,000 climate change papers, including the contrary 24, in a bag, the chances that you would pull out 10 studies that reject climate change is 0.000000000000000000000000003%.” He added that people are more likely to be struck by lightning and then hit by an asteroid. Yet 40 percent of people in the United States are convinced that climate scientists disagree about global climate change.

The media is partly to blame for the lack of understanding. For example, radio host Alex Jones has explained how the government has the ability to cause tornadoes—and does it! Jones is right that people are causing tornadoes because human-caused climate change is contributing to the number and intensity just as it contributes to all other extreme weather conditions. When high pressure cold fronts from the north meet low-pressure low temperatures, the result is tornadoes. The more extreme the contrast between cold and warm, the greater the force.

Even Forbes, the magazine that tells people how to invest their money, pushes the idea that climate change is a hoax. An op-ed piece, based on information from Exxon-supported Marshal Institute, claims that scientists study climate change only on a regional basis and that carbon dioxide is just water vapor. It blamed 75 percent of temperature changes on solar activity. According to Forbes, the cost of addressing carbon emissions would be $500 trillion. Beyond the fact that they are wrong, the cost of not addressing carbon dioxide is water shortages, more widespread famine, and war over the planet’s resources.

As the people of the United States complacently ignore looming disaster, Tunisia tackles it head on. I’m guessing that over half the people in this country don’t know where Tunisia is; I wasn’t sure until I got out the globe. This small, northern African country of fewer than 11 million people has a new constitution that addresses climate change, committing the country to contribute to the protection of the climate for future generations. The third country after Ecuador and Dominican Republic to put climate change into its constitution, Tunisia also mandates that  the “state shall provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution.”

Parliament member Dhamir Mannai said that legislators were concerned about the potential impacts that a warming world would have on Tunisia. The country’s government is now obliged to act against global warming and addresses the importance of this issue on an international basis. David Estrin, an environmental lawyer, said it may be possible for one country to sue another on climate change and “eventually allow bodies like the International Court of Justice to act on complaints that one country is causing harm to another by not abating its emissions.”

Tunisia went beyond climate change to ensure gender equality and eliminate Sharia law. The constitution’s second article, which like some others cannot be amended, provides that the country bans discrimination against women by granting them rights and duties equal to those of men. “The state shall the necessary measures to eliminate violence against women,” the constitution also guarantees.

Another article, “freedom of conscience,” allows individuals to profess any religion, even “no religion,” and practice their beliefs without being deemed apostates. The freedom of conscience also covers freedom of political, intellectual, and ideological affiliation, and freedom of opinion away from accusations of apostasy and incitement to violence.

“Health is a right for every person,” the document announces, declaring that Tunisia shall “guarantee preventative health care and treatment for every citizen and provide the means necessary to ensure the safety and good quality of health services.” Another article guarantees workers the right to form unions and the ability to strike, excepting only the army and security services. All citizens, male and female alike, shall “have the right to adequate working conditions and to a fair wage.”

The Tunisian constitution also provides the right to due process and protection from torture, rights that people in the United States have gradually lost.

As a contrast to this constitution, a group of conservatives in the United States is working toward a constitutional convention that would pass amendments to the U.S. Constitution without going through the U.S. Congress. Rep. Ron Johnson (R-WI) believes that Article V would give them this power if 34 states call for a convention.  The popularity of the idea may have come from Mark Levin in his book The Liberty Amendments.

Their goals are a balanced budget amendment, term limits for the Supreme Court, Congressional overriding of Supreme Court decisions by a three-fifths vote, prohibition of international treaties and law to govern U.S. domestic law, limit on taxes, abolishment of the 17th Amendment which allows people to elect U.S. senators, and permission of 34 states to override any federal statute or regulation “exceeding an economic burden of $100 million.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), resigning at the end of the year, plans “to be involved with the Convention of States. I’m going to try to motivate so that happens. I think that’s the only answer. I’m just going to go around and talk about why it’s needed, and try to convince state legislatures to do it.”

The Founding Fathers formed a constitution that limited voting rights, discriminated against women and blacks, and allowed people (if you listen to some people) unlimited rights to own guns and shoot at people. Conservatives even think that the Founding Fathers created a Christian country with Christian laws. Now the United States is working on constitutional amendments that would complete corporate ownership of the country.

Through a revolution almost four years ago, Tunisia earned its constitution banning gender discrimination, allowing freedom of religion, fighting against climate change, and union and health rights. Those who believe that the U.S. is “exceptional” should look to Tunisia.

1 Comment »

  1. Great news . I didn’t know this about Tunisia. I studied there I 1964, and I remember one professor saying that young Tunisian men had difficulties finding a wife because young women insisted on equality.


    Comment by Dianne Eckstein — February 7, 2014 @ 9:09 AM | Reply

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