.
T

he world needs to prepare for millions of people displaced by climate change. Every  region around the world currently faces climate change threats from rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, increased heat waves, and amplified natural disasters. Climate-related natural disasters account for the largest stressor inciting climate migration, displacing 17.2 million people in 2018. Displacement from climate change frequently occurs in East Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific. Additionally, the World Bank in 2018 predicted the three regions of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will generate more than 143 million climate migrants by 2050. Many will migrate from poorer and more harshly affected regions to wealthier countries that can fight the worst effects of climate change in addition to regions with climates that will remain more mild. Rather than welcoming those who are fleeing disaster, countries are increasingly setting up walls and legal blockades to keep them out, further complicating the situation. Governments must prepare for mass climate migration or they invite widespread humanitarian disasters and an erosion of international security.

Climate migrants do not typically qualify as refugees, thus they lack the protections and status often extended to those fleeing other disasters. In popular usage, the terms climate migrants, climate refugees, and climate displaced tend to used interchangeably to represent those displaced or those who migrate because of environmental stressors. However, the formal withholding of legal refugee classification for climate migrants downplays climate change's human consequences and destabilizing aspects. The term “climate migrant” does not reflect the danger and duress of climate change that drives people to migrate. Creating a formal, legal classification of “climate refugee” would not only more accurately reflect the need for urgent action, it would also provide legal protections for those forced to move by climate change. However, becoming a classified refugee brings “a lot of baggage” because of the racism and discrimination against many seeking asylum. Since the term climate refugee does not currently exist legally, climate migrant will remain the predominant classification used despite the enormity of the issue.

Climate migration often stays internal, although as climate migration increases more migrants will cross international borders. Temporary displacements from climate change-related disasters like wildfires and hurricanes count as climate migration. However, permanent migration arises from a complete loss of livability in an area due to climate change. For example, rising sea levels take away land areas, and desertification ruins food cultivability. The loss of livability in areas will create millions of climate migrants fleeing land that can no longer support their life, many of those fleeing being among the poorest of society.

So-called “climate havens” will receive the influx of those displaced by climate change. These havens will be predominantly wealthier countries that can fight the worst effects of climate change and regions whose climate will remain moderate and livable. Wealthier countries and countries with mild climates will face millions of climate migrants coming to them for help, making it a global security concern.

Global leaders and institutions increasingly accept that climate change represents the “gravest threat” to international peace and security. However, they have failed to take definitive action thus far. Leaders of the UN Security Council’s 15 members mentioned the droughts, floods, storms, and rising seas that will produce regional collapse and millions of climate migrants searching for safety. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also raised concerns about climate change on February 17, stating NATO must do more “to address the security implications of climate change” because it “affects all of us.” The lack of definitive international action remains worrisome, although the growing acknowledgement by global leaders and organizations indicates a preliminary step to definitive action.

Halting climate change remains the ultimate solution to prepare for the impending climate migration calamity. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, “the science is clear: we need to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.” Alleviating climate change would prevent people from being forced from their homes, and it would save our planet for future generations to come. Governments and people must solve climate change to avoid its consequences; if not, the world must prepare for the climate migration disaster upon us.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Confronting the Impending Climate Migration Disaster

March 17, 2021

As climate change progresses, climate migration by those desperate to escape the worst impacts of global warming will increase dramatically. The world needs to prepare now.

T

he world needs to prepare for millions of people displaced by climate change. Every  region around the world currently faces climate change threats from rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, increased heat waves, and amplified natural disasters. Climate-related natural disasters account for the largest stressor inciting climate migration, displacing 17.2 million people in 2018. Displacement from climate change frequently occurs in East Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific. Additionally, the World Bank in 2018 predicted the three regions of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will generate more than 143 million climate migrants by 2050. Many will migrate from poorer and more harshly affected regions to wealthier countries that can fight the worst effects of climate change in addition to regions with climates that will remain more mild. Rather than welcoming those who are fleeing disaster, countries are increasingly setting up walls and legal blockades to keep them out, further complicating the situation. Governments must prepare for mass climate migration or they invite widespread humanitarian disasters and an erosion of international security.

Climate migrants do not typically qualify as refugees, thus they lack the protections and status often extended to those fleeing other disasters. In popular usage, the terms climate migrants, climate refugees, and climate displaced tend to used interchangeably to represent those displaced or those who migrate because of environmental stressors. However, the formal withholding of legal refugee classification for climate migrants downplays climate change's human consequences and destabilizing aspects. The term “climate migrant” does not reflect the danger and duress of climate change that drives people to migrate. Creating a formal, legal classification of “climate refugee” would not only more accurately reflect the need for urgent action, it would also provide legal protections for those forced to move by climate change. However, becoming a classified refugee brings “a lot of baggage” because of the racism and discrimination against many seeking asylum. Since the term climate refugee does not currently exist legally, climate migrant will remain the predominant classification used despite the enormity of the issue.

Climate migration often stays internal, although as climate migration increases more migrants will cross international borders. Temporary displacements from climate change-related disasters like wildfires and hurricanes count as climate migration. However, permanent migration arises from a complete loss of livability in an area due to climate change. For example, rising sea levels take away land areas, and desertification ruins food cultivability. The loss of livability in areas will create millions of climate migrants fleeing land that can no longer support their life, many of those fleeing being among the poorest of society.

So-called “climate havens” will receive the influx of those displaced by climate change. These havens will be predominantly wealthier countries that can fight the worst effects of climate change and regions whose climate will remain moderate and livable. Wealthier countries and countries with mild climates will face millions of climate migrants coming to them for help, making it a global security concern.

Global leaders and institutions increasingly accept that climate change represents the “gravest threat” to international peace and security. However, they have failed to take definitive action thus far. Leaders of the UN Security Council’s 15 members mentioned the droughts, floods, storms, and rising seas that will produce regional collapse and millions of climate migrants searching for safety. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also raised concerns about climate change on February 17, stating NATO must do more “to address the security implications of climate change” because it “affects all of us.” The lack of definitive international action remains worrisome, although the growing acknowledgement by global leaders and organizations indicates a preliminary step to definitive action.

Halting climate change remains the ultimate solution to prepare for the impending climate migration calamity. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, “the science is clear: we need to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.” Alleviating climate change would prevent people from being forced from their homes, and it would save our planet for future generations to come. Governments and people must solve climate change to avoid its consequences; if not, the world must prepare for the climate migration disaster upon us.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.