The climate refugees are coming

What do countries consider a threat to national security? Nuclear proliferation? Yes. Espionage? Of course. People displaced by the drought, flooding, and other effects of global warming? Definitely.

This week, a European Union report warned of the dangers of “environmentally induced migration.”

According to an article in the Daily Telegraph:

The EU analysis of the security threats posed by global warming predicts social unrest as an influx of immigration sweeps “destination” Europe, following failing harvests and environmental conflicts in the world’s poorest countries.


“There will be millions of ‘environmental’ migrants by 2020, with climate change as one of the major drivers of this phenomenon,” states the report. “Such migration may increase conflicts in transit and destination areas. Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure.”


The stark report, written by Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner for External Relations, forecasts the rise of vicious new conflicts following the impact of climate change.  “The inability of a government to meet the needs of its population as a whole or to provide protection in the face of climate change-induced hardship could trigger frustration, lead to tensions between ethnic and religious groups within countries to political radicalization. This could destabilize countries and even entire regions,” says the report.

The countries that make up the EU aren’t the only one’s worried about mass climate migration threatening national security; the Canadian and US governments have also noted the risk. According to the US report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change”:

Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world. The U.S. and Europe may experience mounting pressure to accept large numbers of immigrant and refugee populations as drought increases and food production declines in Latin America and Africa. Extreme weather events and natural disasters, as the U.S. experienced with Hurricane Katrina, may lead to increased missions for a number of U.S. agencies, including state and local governments, the Department of Homeland Security, and our already stretched military, including our Guard and Reserve forces.

If the US population swells, maybe military enlistment will, too.

Millions of people being displaced by global warming is obviously a big deal, but it’s unlikely all of them will pick up and move to the States or the UK. Unless they’re residents of Tuvalu, climate refugees won’t necessarily leave their country.

We’d like to see wealthier countries start taking action now—like legally recognizing climate refugees so that there are systems in place for protecting and resettling them. Cutting CO2 emissions won’t hurt, but we could also pitch in and help poor countries (which will bear the brunt as the planet warms) adapt to climate change.

It’s like we learned in Boy Scouts: Be prepared. (Ok, fine, we were Brownies, but you know what we mean.)


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