Friday, November 11, 2016

Human Mobility and Climate Change

What I think most people do not understand about climate change is all the human rights issues and inequities it brings to typically vulnerable communities around the world. Typical reasons for human mobility are majority slow onset events such as sea level rise or drought. At a side event I attended today, one of the panelists mentioned the importance of terminology between the terms migration, climate refugees, human mobility/planned relocation, and displacement. Migration gives the idea that the people chose to leave versus displacement where the people were forced to leave. Furthermore, climate refugees might not be the most appropriate term to use because refugees are a people who leave their home due to persecution. Human mobility is a word that encompass these terms, whose meaning can be further identified from the context in which it is used. After this brief vocabulary lesson, the panelist began to provide insight into this ever growing concern of climate change.

As sea levels rise entire islands or coastlines can be completely submerged. As the water rises, it encroaches on entire cultures, communities, and heritages. To adapt to climate change many of these communities are forced to move inland to higher ground, but in the case of islands, often times higher ground or inland might not exists. In these circumstances many small island developing states (SIDS) are planning relocation for their people. These relocations result in the buying of land in another country where these communities then have to transition into. Imagine being forced to leave where you grew up knowing you would never be able to return. What are the non-value costs associated with this?

Many times cultures live in harmony with their environment and are forced to leave their loved ones they have buried behind, never being able to tell their children about where they grew up. If the migration to another country occurs, the loss of cultural identity that may occur is catastrophic to traditions of these communities. Furthermore, imagine the difficulty of trying to integrate into a foreign culture permanently. It is difficult for us developed nations, who see less consequences of climate change in our own backyard, because we don’t have to worry about losing our entire culture and moving.

This is why it is of utmost importance to decarbonize our economies and to make the transition to renewable energy to limit warming to stay below the 1.5℃ so these SIDS can keep their homes. Climate change is a complex issue that won’t be cured overnight, but we can all make a difference by changing our lifestyles and advocating for strong climate and environmental policies as well as social responsibility in companies. I am hopeful we can all come together as a global society to stop climate change before it is too late for some.

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