By Amanda Speciale
Dr. Melissa A. Kenney was recently featured in openDemocracy’s “Collaborating with Scientists for Climate Justice” article by Ellen Platts and Claire Sabel on September 21, 2016. Platts and Sabel investigate the social inequalities and human rights issues that have begun to emerge due to climate change, especially among discriminated and underprivileged communities, as well as “vulnerable populations” in the United States.
Dr. Kenney explains in the article that “framing climate change as a human rights problem is a relatively new development, and is not a common perspective among scientists or federal policy makers”. This new perspective has arisen due to the first community that has been displaced by climate change, the Isle de Jean Charles, where 98% of the land has been eroded and is no longer habitable for humans. Certain communities, such as African Americans in Los Angeles, are also facing high amounts of pollution, and are at risk for heat-induced health effects due to the cost of installing climate adaptation approaches such as air conditioning during heat waves.
At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Meeting at AAAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. held from July 25-26, 2016, Dr. Kenney and other participants gathered and discussed these issues. Key potential challenges discussed in preventing these future displacements is the opened communication that must occur between “human rights practitioners, affected communities and scientists”. Kenney says that “scientists are used to speaking to each other through established channels,” therefore new collaboration skills will be necessary for successful communication. Both Kenney and Dr. Salote Soto, a Senior Program Leader of Environmental Justice and Climate Action with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, agree that they foresee “great potential in partnerships” between these groups.