Climate Refugees – Links, Notes, Bookmarks And Briefs For October 31, 2017
An open thread and weekly notes on the topic of so-called ‘climate refugees’, also known as ‘environmental migrants’ or ‘climate exiles’, people driven from their communities and homes due to the impacts of climate change. Feel free to eavesdrop, join in or start a conversation, or drop a relevant link in the comments. Summaries published each Tuesday. If your comment hasn’t appeared within 24 hours, a reason why is probably here.
The Climate Apartheid: How Global Warming Affects the Rich and Poor – Rolling Stone (24 Oct). Read of the week. An excerpt from The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, published on Oct 24, 2017. This excerpt focuses on Lagos, Nigeria, a delta city of 20 million. This is important in this discussion as climate refugees, or climate exiles already mainly come from the economic margins.
As cities around the world adapt to the harsh realities of climate change, the divide between the doomed and the saved is growing starker. In New York City, the first stage of a barrier designed to prevent flooding in lower Manhattan will break ground early next year. No such barrier is being seriously proposed for, say, Red Hook, a predominately African-American neighborhood that is equally at risk. In Miami Beach, streets are being elevated and LEED-certified condo towers are rising, but in low-income neighborhoods like Miami Shores, you have to walk through shit-filled water every time a big tide arrives. And in Saudi Arabia, billions of dollars are being spent on desalinization machines that can turn ocean water into fresh drinking water, while in Bangladesh tens of thousands of farmers flee because rising salt water has ruined their wells. It’s often argued that climate change is a problem that impacts everyone on the planet; what’s less obvious is that the solutions to climate change are already deepening the divide between the doomed and the saved. In the coming years, that divide will only grow wider, creating what amounts to a climate apartheid.
Less than two months after I left Utqiaġvik, residents experienced coastal flooding in and around the town, as parts of the berm were breached by waves. This kind of erosion and where it will inevitably lead is a central problem for that village, among many others. In talking with a friend who is working with more than 30 other Native villages along rivers and coastlines of Alaska that are susceptible to thawing permafrost and increasingly severe Arctic storms, I learned that they will all have to be relocated. Until they relocate, the plight of these future US climate refugees will only intensify and worsen. In addition to the endangerment of residents’ homes and sustenance, their culture and religious practices, which are deeply connected to the land and seas where they currently live, are threatened. And there will be no funding from the Trump administration to assist them in their survival.
We can no longer simply speak about what is happening to the planet in the future tense. And keep in mind that currently, we are “only” at 1.1°C above pre-industrial baseline temperatures.
Growing numbers of scientists have concluded we are already in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. A recent report showed that plant and animal species, which in addition to their own intrinsic value are the very foundation of our own food supply, are as endangered as our rapidly disappearing wildlife.
“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, which published the report told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, 14 million people around the world are being made homeless due to floods and storms fueled by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), according to a recent report.
Although, no single weather event can be attributed solely to ACD, scientists are in agreement that ACD is contributing to the severity and frequency of these phenomena.
Most parts of South Asia are both highly populated and highly exposed to impacts of climate change. Bangladesh is one of those areas that receives the utmost attention because of climate risks and climate migration. It is expected that about 15 million people from Bangladesh only could be on the move by 2050 because of climate migration.
The Ganges–Brahmaputra Delta has long been identified as one of the hot spots of climate change effects in this region, as it is a particularly low-lying and therefore vulnerable coastal zone.
Internal migration has already been observed in Bangladesh; large populations are already being displaced or have decided to migrate due to cyclones and riverbank erosion. Strong cases of migration were found from the southern region Satkhira, Kuakata, Shoronkhola, and Potuakhali district of the country. Climate change is also likely to increase migration out of the western and southern districts of Bangladesh, which is prone to drought and to floods and cyclones.
Floods and tropical storms are major reasons for internal migration in Bangladesh. There is also evidence that abrupt, short-range population movement can, at least indirectly, also influence longer-range migration through the demographic changes that it causes. Therefore, a multiplicity of climatic drivers has a drastic impact on livelihoods in Bangladesh.
World Medical Association (WMA): Emergency Funding Needed to Combat Climate Change (20 Oct). From a policy statement adopted at its annual Assembly in Chicago in October:
..Human influence on the climate system is clear, with recent emissions of green-house gases the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impact on human and natural systems. Compelling evidence proves numerous health risks which threaten all countries. These include more frequent and potentially more severe heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms and bushfires.
and from WMA President Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura:
We are also urging national governments to provide for the health and wellbeing of people displaced by environmental causes, including those becoming refugees because of the consequences of climate change’.
Climate change could force a billion people from their homes by 2050, potentially triggering major health crises around the world, according to a new study.
The Lancet’s annual Countdown report calls on governments to act quickly to fight pollution and other factors that have exacerbated climate change, leading to public health issues.
“We are only just beginning to feel the impacts of climate change,” said Professor Hugh Montgomery, co-chair of the Lancet Countdown, in an interview with the Independent. “Any small amount of resilience we may take for granted today will be stretched to breaking point sooner than we may imagine.
The report found that “migration driven by climate change has potentially severe impacts on mental and physical health, both directly and by disrupting essential health and social services.”
The research also found that more humans are being exposed to extreme heatwaves and air pollution and are more commonly at risk for mosquito-borne illnesses than in past decades, due to climate change.
More than one hundred million adults over the age of 65 have been exposed to dangerously hot conditions since the turn of the 21st century, while 71 percent of cities tracked by the World Health Organization have dangerous levels of air pollution.
Dengue fever has become nearly 10 percent more prevalent around the world since 1950, due to warm conditions that allow mosquitoes to thrive for much of the year.
Already, says the report, at least 4400 people have been forced to migrate with climate change being the sole reason for fleeing their homes.
Refugees who have already been forced from their homes due to climate change include 1200 residents of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea who fled because of rising sea levels, 3500 Alaskans who escaped coastal erosion due to melting ice, and at least 25 people who left southern Louisiana, also because of a disintegrating coastline.
The study also notes that the impacts of global warming, including drought and other conditions that can negatively affect agriculture and people’s livelihoods, can set in motion a chain of events that make regions ripe for violent conflicts.
“For example, in Syria,” the study reads, “many attribute the initial and continued conflict to the rural to urban migration that resulted from a climate change-induced drought.”
While the issues leading to wars are complex, the Lancet continues, “climate change, as a threat multiplier and an accelerant of instability, is often thought of as important in exacerbating the likelihood of conflict.”