A leading group of genocide scholars led by prominent Turkish academic Taner Akçam has warned that billions of people could die as a result of climate and ecological collapse. “The effects of the climate emergency on today’s most marginalized human communities should be ringing deafening alarm bells,” they said.

A leading group of genocide scholars has warned that billions of people could die as a result of climate and ecological collapse.

statement published on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) by 24 leading genocide scholars and human rights practitioners led by prominent Turkish academic Taner Akçam posits that over and beyond soaring temperatures,

the collapse of sustainable food production and the permanent waterlogging of densely populated regions could lead to the direct death of large swathes of humanity or their displacement to other regions where they would be physically prevented from entry.

“The effects of the climate emergency on today’s most marginalized human communities should be ringing deafening alarm bells,” they said.

The statement sees the onus of this breakdown falling on the poorest and most marginalized elements of the human community, especially in the Global South. It particularly highlights the vulnerability of indigenous peoples, otherwise, frontline communities who continue to suffer the effects of fossil fuel and mining extraction.

More generally, it links the coronavirus pandemic to an “ever-increasing human disturbance to an already threadbare ecological balance” and poses that the main drivers of this disturbance, most particularly powerful national and corporate polluting interests, should be accountable in the same way as others who commit crimes against humanity.

‘Genocidal and ecocidal mass murder’

“As the clock ticks down to planetary nemesis our historically dispassionate role and critical distance seeking out the sources and drivers of both genocidal and ecocidal mass murder at macro, meso and micro levels,

requires now a rapid, clear-sighted but also passionate reconfiguration to scrutinizing and calling out the culpability and responsibility of immensely powerful, national and corporate polluting interests for the environmental damage and mass death they have inflicted and continue to inflict, and for which they ought to be accountable in precisely the same way as other more recognized génocidaires,” the statement read.

The scholars have also called for an urgent paradigm shift in their own disciplinary field.

“Facing the reality of where we have arrived, and the truth of what we are on the cusp of, is now beyond urgent. It requires, among other things, the most fundamental paradigm shift in the way we approach our disciplinary field. The challenge confronting us is threefold : as scholars, teachers and human beings,” they said.

Human-induced catastrophes inflicted on the natural world, most obviously leading to global warming, also carry with them a vastly increased potential for pandemics as well as mass atrocity on a previously unforeseen scale, the scholars said, noting that the causation of these threats lies in a historical record in which ecocide and genocide are closely interlinked.

“Understanding these interconnections as well as acting with responsibility demands a major rethink of curricula and research priorities in the genocide field, an intensified scholars’ debate but also a more everyday focus on how scholars might be active proponents for a sustainable, non-violent future,” they said.