Climate Refugee – Research / Talking Points

Temporary Expert / Week 1 / Introduction

The relevance of climate change at this point in time is unfortunate, alarming and full of conflicts. Climate change has many catastrophic consequences, environmental refugees being one of them.

Definition first:
“Climate refugees are people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardized their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life.”  – El Hinnawi, mid 1980s

Climate refugees or environmental migrants
– can be displaced by an environmental event.
– can be displaced by deteriorating environmental conditions.
– this movement can take place within and across international borders.
– the movement can be short term or long term.
– population movements triggered by environmental forces can be forced or voluntary.

Types:
– Environmental emergency migrants – hurricane, tsunami, earthquake et cetera.
– Environmental forced migrants – deforestation, coastal pollution
– Environmental motivated migrants – declining crop productivity, lack of grazing lands for livestock

Numbers:
Environmental refugees = 6 x political refugees   [ Jodi Jacobson, 1988  ]
Climate refugees = 50 million by 2010, 200 million by 2050   [ Norman Myers, 2005  ]
Norman Myers himself acknowledges that his numbers are not accurate and are based on ‘heroic extrapolation’. However, even if the estimates are off by 50%, environmental migration looks a massive problem that the world will face (is in fact, already facing.)

Examples:
– Climate change has been recognized as one of the contributing factors to the war in Syria. Syria faced the worst drought in the last 900 years during 2005-2008, causing heavy displacement of humans from rural lands to the cities. A failing government couldn’t ensure equal resources or work opportunities to all the people moving in. Consequently, the leadership failed to curb human suffering which amongst other factors resulted in the devastating war that has been going on for over the past five years. (link , link)
– The islands of Tuvalu are drowning, causing people to move out of the island nation. A fifth of the population has already left and found refuge in neighboring islands of Kiribati and Fiji, which can be under the same environmental threat not a long time from now. (link)
– The United States has encountered it’s first incidents of climate refugees in Newtok, Alaska and Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. (link, link)
– Military General of Bangladesh Munir Muniruzzaman claims that the nation runs under the threat of losing 20% of it’s land if there’s a rise of even 1% in the sea level. This is not really implausible given the rate at which the Himalayan glaciers are melting, and Bangladesh being one of the nations situated at the delta of the Himalayan rivers, Ganges and Brahmaputra. (link)
– The United States Military has acknowledged the threat of climate change as one of the biggest threats to national security in the coming future.

Takeaways:
Given the magnitude and impact of the problem of climate refugees, I have been tackling many ideas and solutions which I will be documenting in the next blog post. Some questions that need to be asked are:
– Why do people deny climate change?
– Does climate change need to be preached just like religion was preached back in the dark ages? Are the climate refugees the new heralds of enlightenment? Are they the new Gods? Weren’t Jesus and Moses refugees?
– Like most media these days, does the topic of climate change need a shock value?
– How can art and research contribute to this reckoning?

Links:
http://www.osce.org/eea/14851
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23899195
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/25/world/asia/china-climate-change-resettlement.html
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/01/climate-change-trigger-unimaginable-refugee-crisis-senior-military
http://theageofconsequences.com/
Image link
Youtube videos :
Countries already dealing with climate change refugees ,
Why do people deny climate change?

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