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We're All Just Whistling Past This Graveyard

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Rohingya groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh live in extremely difficult climate conditions.
Rohingya groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh live in extremely difficult climate conditions.
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In recent years both the US and Europe have faced what seems a never-ending flood of refugees; the US from Mexico and Latin America and Europe from north Africa and the Middle East. The affected countries trying to absorb this flood of refugees considered this uncontrolled influx something approaching national emergencies. What to do with all these people? Where to house them? How to feed them? How to contain the inevitable backlash from their own citizens and the resulting growth in right-wing nationalism.

While solutions to those problems remain largely unsolved, a bigger problem looms just over the horizon; mass migration of climate refugees. This surge of climate refugees will dwarf current immigration problems. While today the US and southern Europe face a flood of refugees, most from dysfunctional countries or regional wars, the climate refugee problem will be a tsunami in comparison.

Enormous bodies of refugees, not numbering in the millions, or the tens of millions, but in the hundreds of millions, will flee areas of the world where changing climate ravages already marginal agriculture, whether through too much rain, too little rain, rising temperatures or rising sea levels.

Recently I spent a week reading research papers by scientists, world health organizations and world bankers on this very subject. The bottom line: "we ain't seen nothing yet."

"We are now witnessing the highest levels of movement on record. About 258 million people, or one in every 30, were living outside their country of birth in 2017. That is both a record high -- there were 173 million in 2000 and an alarmingly volatile figure: a 2003 projection anticipated that by 2050, there would be up to 230 million international migrants. The latest revised projection is that there will be 405 million international migrants by 2050.

While regional wars and poor governance have fueled most of our current migrations, climate-fueled migrations are just now beginning to ramp up.

"In 2015, over a billion people migrated: 244 million went abroad and 763 million moved within their home country. The numbers of migrants are growing. From 2000 to 2015 annual migration growth was 2.4%. This was double the annual population growth of 1.2%.

The countries of origin for the coming climate-change refugee flows will be from many of the usual suspects, researchers predict.

"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 this population shift will take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

And, from the National Academy of Sciences:

"This suggests that crop yield -- induced migration will be a significant issue in many areas of the world that are expected to experience a substantial reduction in yields as a result of climate change, including much of Africa, India, Bangladesh, Latin America, and Australia, among others... our findings are significant -- from a global perspective given that many regions, especially developing countries, are expected to experience significant declines in agricultural yields as a result of projected warming."

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, dug deeper, outlining the causes and effects of predicted climate change on mass population movements:

"First, environmental problems may directly lead to emigration. Secondly, environmental stress may lead to resource conflicts, and these conflicts may produce refugees. Each type of migration may lead to conflict in receiving areas; however, they may not be equal in their effects global climate change has the potential to directly uproot people from their home communities. Research on this topic suggests several possible mechanisms through which people may be forced out of their current habitat:

"Sea-level rise caused by a reduction in glacial coverage will lead to the flooding of coastal areas.

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a Pulitzer.

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6 people are discussing this page, with 8 comments


Michael Dewey

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know that I don't want to keep hearing all of this, how about you all? Sounds like we could not have a better time to call for that world-wide year of jubilee party of Isaiah 25 than yesterday. Some would buy that idea if the Bible wasn't mentioned, but tell you off for mentioning the Bible.

"I've got mine, screw you who don't."--quote and attitude of too many.

Submitted on Wednesday, Aug 28, 2019 at 6:56:45 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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"Science fiction" years ago published stories about unimaginable numbers of people attempting to cross the Straits of Gibraltar from Africa to Europe. The deluge overwhelmed Europe where governments went lethal and set up machine guns along the coast.

Submitted on Wednesday, Aug 28, 2019 at 7:38:53 PM

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Why to refer to many years ago? Did you forget the recent bullying of a giant oil tanker in Gibraltar and illegal problems that UK/USA created?

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 29, 2019 at 7:32:22 PM

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Warren no doubt has a "plan".

Submitted on Wednesday, Aug 28, 2019 at 7:53:58 PM

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Vote Green. If you're serious about the climate emergency anyway.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 29, 2019 at 1:46:26 AM

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Bunch of nonsense far from reality.

Reality check: Stop invading countries and dropping bombs. Problems solved.

When a bomb especially white phosphorus bombs are dropped what people are supposed to do? They leave home country and become refugees.

Western countries and Russia have caused refugee problems. Iran has the most refugees in comparison to any countries because of Russia/USA/UK aggressions.

What does Iran get for house several million refuges?? Iran gets more sanctions. The whole world is messed up because of Western countries causing mayhem in various regions.

Profiteers are destroying the world including forests. Oil extractions have caused major problems in West Asia and other parts of the world.

This articles has missed the culprits.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 29, 2019 at 7:40:06 PM

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Tens of thousands of people are made refugees by imperialist policies including bombing. Tens of millions will go north because imperialist/rapine policies are destroying the planets ecology.

Submitted on Friday, Aug 30, 2019 at 4:38:20 PM

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Lou Pintada

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Build the wall!

Yup, there are more than 400 million people in South America, and more than another 100 million in central america. As the climate gets hotter, and the Brazilians slash and burn the Amazon Forest those locations are becoming uninhabitable.

Of course, not all 500+ million people will come north. Most will choose to die at home and some will not be able to afford the trip, so just as a conservative estimate, at least 100 million people will be seeking asylum in the US.

It doesn't matter how descent and productive those people are they will not be absorbed into the US and Canadian economies. Especially since the US economy, and more importantly, the nationwide agricultural production will also be damaged by the effects of run away warming.

It is about time that someone pointed out that sea level rise is not the greatest threat from AGW, it is in fact climate refugees.

Submitted on Friday, Aug 30, 2019 at 3:43:30 PM

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