Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Refugees Escape Ravages of Climate Change. (EH Update)

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Refugees Escape Ravages of Climate Change. (EH Update)

Article excerpt

In the last few years, the number of people displaced worldwide as the result of flooding, drought, soil erosion, deforestation, or toxic spills has for the first time outstripped the number seeking refuge from civil war and persecution. According to the Red Cross, 58 percent of the world's 43 million refugees have been uprooted by environmental degradation.

According to Dr. Norman Myers, a visiting fellow at Oxford University and a leading ecologist, the figure will rocket to 150 million over the next 50 years as sea levels rise. Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, is equally pessimistic, predicting a doubling of environmental refugees to 50 million by 2010.

Anyone who doubts that housing the planet's environmental refugees will become a major international problem should look at the countries at risk. Within the next 50 years, the Pacific island of Tuvalu is expected to become the first casualty of the world's industrial excesses as it slips beneath the ocean.

Already Tuvalu, the Maldives, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and dozens of Caribbean states are becoming uninhabitable as salt water contaminates freshwater supplies. It is estimated that the disappearance of the island states will produce up to a million environmental refugees. …

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