Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the Co2 Crisis?

By David Ray Griffin | Go to book overview

8
CLIMATE REFUGEES

[I]f allowed to progress along current trajectories, climate change will
displace unprecedented numbers of people
.”

– Aaron Saad, “Climate Change, Compelled Migration,
and Global Social Justice,” 2010

Countries first impacted by unprecedented climate change
are the ones with the least economic capacity to respond.
Ironically, these are the countries that are least responsible
for climate change in the first place
.”

– Camilo Mora, October 2013

The term “climate refugees” has recently become widely used, in large part because of three documentaries: Climate Refugees, Sun Come Up, and The Island President.1

Whereas the term “environmental refugees” was evidently first used in 1976 by Lester Brown, the term “climate refugees,” referring to a particular type of environmental refugees, was apparently first used in a Worldwatch Institute paper of 1988.2 Climate refugees are just what the term suggests: people who had to leave their homes because of climate-influenced changes that forced them to move to other places.

The term “climate refugees,” however, is controversial, primarily because it is not recognized in international law: The 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees mandates protection only of people who have fled their countries for fear of state-led persecution. The appropriateness of the term “climate refugees” will be discussed in the second part of this chapter. In the meantime, it will be used as if it were unproblematic.

Climate refugees can be created by almost any of the climateinfluenced changes discussed in the previous chapters. But this chapter focuses on the primary reason for climate refugees: sea-level rise.


Countries Especially Vulnerable to Sea-Level Rise

The mass displacement of people because of sea-level rise had long been

-106-

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Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the Co2 Crisis?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Table of Contents 5
  • Preface 8
  • Part I - Unprecedented Threats 9
  • Introduction 11
  • 1 - Extreme Weather 24
  • 2 - Heat Waves 33
  • 3 - Droughts and Wildfires 40
  • 4 - Storms 54
  • 5 - Sea-Level Rise 68
  • 6 - Fresh Water Shortage 80
  • 7 - Food Shortage 94
  • 8 - Climate Refugees 106
  • 9 - Climate Wars 118
  • 10 - Ecosystem Collapse and Extinction 134
  • Part II - Unprecedented Challenges and Failures 151
  • 11 - Climate Change Denial 153
  • 12 - Media Failure 181
  • 13 - Political Failure 200
  • 14 - Moral Challenge 227
  • 15 - Religious Challenge 244
  • 16 - Economic Challenge 264
  • Part III - What Is to Be Done 301
  • 17 - The Transition to Clean Energy 303
  • 18 - The Abolition of Dirty Energy 362
  • 19 - Mobilization 391
  • 20 - Conclusion 421
  • EndNotes 425
  • Acknowledgments 503
  • Index 504
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