Climate Refugees: A Critical Issue

climate change consequence
NEW YORK CITY, US – From September 12th to September 25th 2017, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took place in New York to discuss the various problems the world is facing. Last year, the General Debate theme was: “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet”. Many topics are approached, including education, social development and the environmental crisis. The latter should catch everyone’s attention as it may very well shape the world’s very near future.
Climate change is real. Nobody, no matter how powerful or rich they are, can deny that. For the most skeptical ones, let us take a trip to Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world and it is, according to Maplecroft’s Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas, the country the most vulnerable to climate change in the world. A study from the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies estimated that 3 million people had to migrate to the capital Dhaka and live in slums, because of environmental factors. This can be witnessed all around the globe, as people escape their home with the sole hope of surviving. They are called environmental or climate refugees, and they are not recognized by world conventions.
A report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) published in 2015 estimated that one person every second was displaced by a disaster since 2009. The annual average is 22.5 million migrants. That means that in 2017, a minimum of 180 million people already had to move because of climate change. The numbers are probably higher, as the environmental crisis has worsened in the last 8 years. It may look like a small number because it only represents 2.5% of the global population, but it is equivalent to more than half of the US population.
A more recent study made by C. Geisler and B. Currens in 2017, shows alarming numbers for the end of the century. Hundreds of million of people would have to move by 2100 because of the global rise in sea level only. A lot of different studies found very different numbers, as it is very hard to predict exactly the number of people affected. However, listing all the catastrophes that hit our planet in the last decade and its consequences would be a waste of time, and instead, we must look ahead at what can be done to help those climate change refugees.
Political migrants can (and rightfully so) obtain financial and medical aid, food and shelter through governments and international organizations. Environmental refugees have no official status and are not protected by international laws. Nothing prevents them from being sent back to their devastated home or forced into a refugee camp. Even the United Nations has no official status for them. International institutions and governments failed to address the pressing issue, leaving millions of people in despair. Some migrants even had to go as far as to sell their own children in order to survive! Nobody should face that inhuman choice, and policies and aids should be more clearly put in place, especially considering that more and more people will be affected by climate change in the coming years.
Indeed, climate change does not care about borders, race, religion or wealth. It hits everywhere and everyone. Some areas and people may be more impacted than others but the whole planet is affected and it is in everyone’s best interest to start working on the problem at hand. Developed countries are not spared, as the UK faces increasing flood risks and Louisiana, US, loses territories to the ocean every year. These countries, however, have the possibility to cope better with climate change. Southern developing countries on the other hand, do not have the infrastructures nor the money to overcome such a challenge.
There are several measures to help environmental refugees who lost or will lose their habitat because of climate change and global warming. The most important action is to reduce current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in all sectors especially in developed countries with high per capita emissions. Not only will this reduce the number of environmental refugees, but it will also protect us all in the long term. Additionally, unity should be the driving factor leading to the creation of new policies and regulations. The situation is going to worsen and more people will need help, which we will not be able to provide if we continue to delay the problem. This must be addressed now, for everyone’s sake.
The Flightnook Team


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.