When human populations can no longer live on their land, they move, migrating to better places. Sea level rise, higher temperatures, disruption of water cycles, and increasing severity of storms are climate change impacts that will force millions of people to move from their homes.
Most populations will migrate slowly, but in the case of catastrophic events coupled with the inability to adapt, mass migration will occur. Think, New Orleans vs Somalia, where New Orleans is arguably more able to adapt to catastophic weather events than Somalia, which is dealing with millions of people migrating north and west due to climate drought. This shows there are two general types of migration - very slow, and very fast. It’s not a smooth gradient pattern where people slowly and eventually move from place to place, like Americans or Europeans do. No, rather this slow/fast pace is lumpy and jagged, and occurs in unexpected spurts at the extremes.
But what of their destinations? Are countries prepared for these sporadic influxes? In other words, what about the countries that receive these migrants? Are they prepared? A new white paper, Climate Change and Migration Dynamics, funded by the European Union and published by Migration Policy, concludes that international cooperation is needed in order to respond to mass displacements that could occur from climate changes, even in the short-term.
The paper looks at it from the point of view of countries, not from the point of view of the people. From that point of view, the authors take a look at policies that would or would not allow mass migrations within the above context of extremes. The authors split countries policies into two general categories, an obstructive approach and a constructive approach.
Obstructive policies are just that - they purposefully obstruct massive amounts of people from immigrating into their political boundaries. The United States, though relatively generous, would be in this category.
Constructive countries help people maintain their livelihoods in the face of climate change. These countries accommodate climate migrants movements as necessary. New Zealand has a limited climate migration policy, allowing up to 12,000 people from the island nation of Tuvalu to migrate in case complete inundation of the islands by sea level rise. (Note: I didn’t find a country that has very accommodating migration policies, if you know of one, please contact me).
The paper is a short read - just about 10 pages. I recommend it to my adaptation readers as an excellent source of information for international issues of immigration and human responses to climate impacts.
Source: “Climate Change and Migration Dynamics" via Migration Policy
Follow up to my previous post: Starvation returns to the Horn of Africa, extreme drought, high food prices, rape. The Economist and Al Jazeera are vigilantly covering the devastating drought in east Africa - the worst since the 1960s effecting Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Aid groups can’t get in sufficiently to provide food, water, and shelter. Refugee camps, it seems, are run by militant rebel groups.
Some rebel groups have cut deals with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab to allow starving refugees cross borders.
The U.S. State Department has issued a strongly worded letter to al-Shabaab to allow foreign aid into Somalia. Update below
Who is to blame? An oscillation in the climate in the form of La Niña—a cooling of the surface temperature across the equatorial eastern-central Pacific, causing big changes in airflow and weather patterns—is likely to have contributed to the droughts.
But humans too play a part. “This is a preventable disaster and solutions are possible,” says Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s humanitarian director. It is no coincidence that the worst-affected areas are also the poorest in the region. Long-term investment could have made villages and towns more resilient.
Update: US Dept. of State sending food aid.
This week, USAID activated a disaster assistance response team (DART) operating out of Ethiopia and Kenya to work with the World Food Program, UNICEF, and over a dozen other organizations to coordinate emergency efforts to relieve the crisis. So far this year, the United States has provided more than $366 million to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa, and continues to explore additional ways to assist those in need.
Read the Press release, here.