Volume 18 Issue 38
Research has shown that most people migrate for economic reasons. The search for jobs and a better way of life are what brought millions of people to the shores of the United States and we continue to admit over a million legal immigrants every year. Cultural and environmental factors also induce migration. Cultural factors can be especially compelling, forcing people to emigrate from a country. Forced international migration has historically occurred for two main cultural reasons: slavery and political instability. Today though, the reason an ever-increasing number of people are migrating is that of environmental factors – climate migration.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) proposes the following definition for environmental migrants:
“Environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad.”
Climate change will transform more than 143 million people into “climate migrants” escaping crop failure, water scarcity, and sea-level rise, a new World Bank report concludes. Most of the changes in populations will occur in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but it is also occurring in our own country.
Whatever the cause of climate change, be it human meddling or the natural course of events, climate change is happening, and at an accelerated rate. One factor seems to be increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Average global temperatures have increased, sea levels around the world have increased and the amount of ice contained in the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have decreased. The loss of Arctic sea ice is one of the clearest signs of climate change. The past four winters have been the lowest four maximum sea ice extents since 1979. At the same time, the region’s climate has seen temperatures increase at more than twice the rate of the rest of the world, with record-shattering seasons becoming more common.
In our own country, significant numbers of people are relocating. The increasingly hot temperatures and dwindling fresh water supplies of the southwest, the sinking coastline of the Gulf states, and the increasing number of devastating hurricanes that have plagued the south have motivated many to move to more northern locales like Seattle, Washington, and Madison, Wisconsin. People are more concerned than ever about the future of adequate water supplies, moderate weather, and comfortable temperatures to raise their families.
The decision to move to safer climates is obviously deeply personal, influenced by a person’s connection with the community they live in, their financial situation and their tolerance for risk. In the U.S., a recent study by Mathew Hauer, a demographer at the University of Georgia, estimates that 13 million people will be displaced by sea level rise alone by the year 2100. Extreme weather due to climate change displaced more than a million people from their homes last year and could reshape our nation.
Climate change is going to remap our world, changing not just how we live but where we live. As scientist Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, puts it, “There is a shocking, unreported, fundamental change coming to the habitability of many parts of the planet, including the U.S.A.”
At a certain point, you have to ask: how long can New Orleans, a city already below sea level, keep pumping water out? In Miami and other cities vulnerable to sea level rise, there is much talk among architects and urban planners about sea walls and coastal barriers and floating houses. But in practice, it’s much more complex.
There are plenty of unknowns in how this will all play out, including unforeseen climate tipping points, technological innovations that help us adapt, and outbreaks of war and but at what point will we pass the tipping point and have to evacuate coastal cities and desert our “new” deserts.
https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/welcome-to-the-age-of-climate-migration-202221/ Welcome to the Age of Climate Migration – Rolling Stone, Jeff Goodell, February 25, 2018
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/climate-migrants-report-world-bank-spd/, 143 Million People May Soon Become Climate Migrants