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Climate Refugees- pssst, it may be us some day

December 15, 2009

The movie screening of Climate Refugees along the sideline of COP15 was not only emotional but also thought provoking and inspirational.

A climate refugee is defined as a ‘person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. Such disasters result from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes. All this is causing mass global migration and border conflicts. For the first time, the Pentagon now considers climate change a national security risk and the term climate wars is being talked about in war-room like environments in Washington D.C.’ Source.

Due to climate change, it is expected that millions of people will be displaced due to floods, desert storms, rising sea level and rainfall. Examples highlighted spanned developed and developing nations. The Hurricane Katrina was a horrific example of how a nation as powerful as the US can be crushed to the ground due to natural circumstances.

The common debate however has been that developed nations can reduce the loss faced due to availability of funds and space. But less developed nations are left to fend for their own. Think about countries like Tuvalu? As highlighted, that small strip of land will perhaps be the first to disappear under water as a result of climate change.

We are in this together. But what amazes and saddens me is that WE JUST DON’T SEE IT. We do not see that this is a global phenomenon. We continue to be constrained in our thinking along nationalistic borders. Our home to us is our nation- not the earth. We look at short term economic development rather than future sustainability. Perhaps also quite selfishly, we do not realize that the impact on one nation will impact us too.

The film highlighted a few critical points. With climate change, there will be movements of people due to either loss of land space for homes and agriculture or merely due to the fact that the place becomes uninhabitable due to extreme weather conditions. And where will these people go? If domestic capacities are available; great! (Note: though that too does have interstate and rural-urban issues). If not, they will have to set up homes in other countries.

This then prompts us to question: Are we willing to accept the displaced? Will we be accepted by them if we are displaced?

Live from COP15
ECO Singapore


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