The refugee crisis is a large and growing problem that will only worsen as the Earth continues to get hotter. World Refugee Day is an initiative started in 1998 to combat hostility in society towards refugees and asylum seekers. This year the day affords an opportunity to reflect on our humanity or lack thereof.
Each year the world commemorates the strength, courage, and perseverance of refugees on June 20. Refugees are people who have endured hell in their home countries, risked death to flee and faced persecution along the way. Perhaps the saddest part of this terrifying journey is the fact that once they arrive in developed countries they are commonly subject to intolerance, prejudice, and violence.
There is an international agreement that was put in place September 2016, global leaders agreed to work towards a Global Compact for refugees in 2018.
The scope of the problem is staggering. There are currently more displaced people than at any point in history including post-WWll. One year ago today the U.N.’s refugee agency reported that the number of displaced people (people who have left their home but have not crossed an international border) is at its highest ever. The total at the end of 2015 reached 65.3 million — or one out of every 113 people. There are 21.3 million refugees, 40.8 million internally displaced people and 3.2 million asylum seekers.
Wars are currently responsible for most refugees, however, a strong body of evidence is building to make the point that climate change exacerbates social tensions and contributes to the likelihood of war. This is especially true in the Levant (Syria, Iraq) which has generated the lion’s share of refugees.
The consensus view from the US military, the world’s largest war machine, says that climate change is real and a major threat to global security.
Current climate refugees
South Pacific island nations are on the front lines of climate change as they are being inundated by rising sea levels. The Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands are disappearing as the water rises. People have fled the heat in parts of India like the city of Phalodi in the state of Rajasthan. Hundreds of farmers are reported to have killed themselves across the country and tens of thousands of small farmers have been forced to abandon their farmland.
As reported by Think Progress, the Africa Report on Internal Displacement paints a bleak picture for refugees on the dark continent. Led by flooding and droughts, climate change has forced over 1 million Africans from their homes in 33 countries. There are at least 12 million internally displaced people and 5.4 million refugees in Africa. The article went on to say, “in the future, climate change may be the lead driver of even greater displacement.”
We often think of climate refugees as hailing exclusively from developing countries. However, there are already climate refugees in the US. In Canada tens of thousands of Fort McMurray residents became refugees when they were forced from the city their homes by a massive wildfire. We need to ask why Fort McMurray burned and what we can do about it.
In 2017 World Refugee Day takes place against the backdrop of racist movements fueling xenophobic political leaderships in the US and elsewhere. Political parties in Europe and elsewhere are pandering to the worst and most hateful aspects of human nature.
It is savagely ironic that those political leaders who are most hostile to refugees are also the same leaders who deny the urgency of climate action. The Trump administration’s is a prime example.
A Think Progress article bluntly states, “Trump’s climate policies will create more war, more refugees”
These inhumane political leaders contribute to the conditions that cause climate change. Rather than showing support for families forced to flee they are building walls both figuratively and literaly.
Worsening climate change will make the current crisis look insignificant by comparison. Climate change is a global problem and failure to deal with it on a global basis will have dire consequences.
Join the 1,522,919 who have pledged their support for refugees. Click here to sign the UN petition
The Coming Climate Refugee Crisis
Growing Climate Refugee Crisis in the US and Around the World
Climate Refugees Need to be Formally Recognized
Climate Migrants Will Add to the Refugee Crisis
Climate Refugee Campaign: Postcards from the Frontlines
What is Environmental Migration and Who are Climate Refugees
Video – Beyond Environmental Refuge
Video – Climate Refugees the Documentary