Environmental Refugees - Not In the Future; Not Over There, But Here and Now

One of the outcomes predicted as climate disruption accelerates is that there will be millions of environmental refugees from countries like Bangladesh, which is likely to lose much of its land area, and Tuvalu, which is likely to lose ALL of its land area.

But all that's a few decades in the future, when sea level rises a lot. Prior to that we might see environmental refugees from changes in climate that cause drought and desertification--particularly in Africa. Some have suggested that changes in climate are at least part of the problems being experienced in Sudan today.

So it all seems far away in the distant future, or far away on a distant continent. But right now, right here in the U. S., we are creating our own environmental refugees. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is almost certain to push fishers and people from other businesses that rely on the health of the Gulf to move on. Thousands of them. They are our own environmental refugees. We already saw it once before with Katrina: tens of thousands of New Orleans residents left and are never coming back (whether you want to call them environmental refugees or not is debatable, but they are at least calamity refugees).

These oil spill refugees are a small example of the effects that will be seen when climate disruption gets worse. Here in the United States our economy is resilient enough to absorb them elsewhere for the most part. But when millions of refugees start pouring across international borders in a few decades, that is unlikely to be the case.

This kind of problem is going to happen again right here in the United States--not just in faraway places. Parts of our country are going to become uninhabitable. . .or too expensive to insure--and those people will start moving to other places. Some of those new places will welcome them and some won't. Tensions will mount, particularly as charity fatigue sets in. And what if we are also trying to deal with Mexican refugees fleeing into the U. S. It's not a pretty picture.

So let's get moving on everything it takes to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Right away, before the trickle of refugees becomes a flood.

1 comment:

  1. While the Earth has always endured natural climate change variability, we are now facing the possibility of irreversible climate change in the near future. The increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth?s atmosphere from industrial processes has enhanced the natural greenhouse effect. This in turn has accentuated the greenhouse ?trap? effect, causing greenhouse gases to form a blanket around the Earth, inhibiting the sun?s heat from leaving the outer atmosphere. This increase of greenhouse gases is causing an additional warming of the Earth?s surface and atmosphere. A direct consequence of this is sea-level rise expansion, which is primarily due to the thermal expansion of oceans (water expands when heated), inducing the melting of ice sheets as global surface temperature increases.
    Forecasts for climate change by the 2,000 scientists on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project a rise in the global average surface temperature by 1.4 to 5.8°C from 1990 to 2100. This will result in a global mean sea level rise by an average of 5 mm per year over the next 100 years. Consequently, human-induced climate change will have ?deleterious effects? on ecosystems, socio-economic systems and human welfare.At the moment, especially high risks associated with the rise of the oceans are having a particular impact on the two archipelagic states of Western Polynesia: Tuvalu and Kiribati. According to UN forecasts, they may be completely inundated by the rising waters of the Pacific by 2050.According to the vast majority of scientific investigations, warming waters and the melting of polar and high-elevation ice worldwide will steadily raise sea levels. This will likely drive people off islands first by spoiling the fresh groundwater, which will kill most land plants and leave no potable water for humans and their livestock. Low-lying island states like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives are the most prominent nations threatened in this way.“The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. The best solution is continue to recognize deterritorialized states as a normal states in public international law. The case of Tuvalu, Kiribati and other small island states is a particularly clear call to action for more secure countries to respond to the situations facing these ‘most vulnerable nations’, as climate change increasingly impacts upon their lives.