Climate change will produce a flood of refugees

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published its latest authoritative report on the impact of global warming/climate change, now and in the future. The news is not good. It wasn’t expected to be.

Rising seas, more frequent and violent storms, fires, food shortages. The list goes on, but as we try to grasp the scope of the adversity that awaits us, it is perhaps sea level rise that is the most easily comprehended.

Coastal areas and cities, including Miami and New Orleans, will be flooded. Low-lying islands like Kiribati will disappear beneath the waves.

There are a lot of low-lying islands in the Pacific – notably the Marshalls, some of the Carolines and Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and French Polynesia, all of which have political and/or economic ties to Hawaii. Where will their people go?

Micronesians, of course, are entitled to benefits from the United States. For others, Hawaii may seem an attractive destination. Likewise, uplands around the world will beckon to environmental refugees.

In a warming world people will be on the move. Crowded, poor Bangladesh, a large part of which lies within the expected inundation zone, will produce 20 million refugees. India is already building fences.

The International Organization for Migration suggests that there may be 200 million environmental migrants by 2050. Perhaps our experience with the immigration issue will give us perspective on how to proceed.

Byron W. Baker