We need to start preparing to address the flood of climate refugees that will continue to increase as the planet warms. Climate change will make the current refugee crisis look insignificant. Climate refugees are already being forced to flee their homelands.
In a recent Independent article, Malik Al ash-Shaykh asks “what will happen to climate refugees?” His research suggests that between 25 million and one billion people could qualify as climate refugees in the coming years. While the exact number is hard to predict with any certainty, we do know that vast numbers of people will be displaced by rising sea levels and an inhospitable climate.
Al ash-Shaykh wonders whether climate refugees will ever benefit from the same legal protections as conventional refugees. Currently, people who identify as climate refugees have no opportunity for recourse, said Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at Columbia University in New York.
We are not prepared to deal with so many displaced people. Thankfully we are beginning to seriously consider the issue. The COP21 climate talks in Paris however, called for a task force to “develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimise and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change”.
“But it seems that support for this has now materialised beyond academic circles to some degree” Al ash-Shaykh wrote. “Experts are moving beyond the singular approach of expanding the Refugee Convention to include those impacted by climate change or environmental disasters…”
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