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Refugees of climate change


This article is a guest blog written by Sadiq Mohammed, the founder of GreenHatters.

Not another of the climate change dysphoria!

I kid you not, this isn’t one of those. Let’s look at the vulnerability of the poor and the developing countries to climate change. With over 1.2 billion people earn less than $1 a day, extreme poverty. It jumps to 2.86 billion, if you make that less than $2. It was best put by this report.

The poor are heavily dependent on natural resources for their survival and livelihood. From rain driven agriculture, deforestation for cultivation and water… and that’s just for the basics. There are many other associated challenges: sanitation, education, healthcare etc.

Let’s look at this from a different angle--vulnerability of forced migration of the poor. This one is barely visible, but a silent and invisible reality!

This has been happening for eons. When natural resources become scarce, this migration gets triggered. Natural disasters triggered by climate change are wiping out hundreds of villages. Millions are put in danger, losing everything they own as the land they lived on becomes destroyed or uninhabitable. Floods in developing countries create a yearly havoc in some nations. Heard of the floods in Bangladesh? The dislocation of millions of families over the years and hundreds of thousands dead! What is the aftermath?

Flooding in Bangladesh.jpgImage: Flickr- CAPRA Initiative

Has the population always been slowly and steadily moving to safer havens? Better life and earning capacity? Cities in developing countries are busting at the seams for infrastructure and support for this influx. The majority of this populace lives in unsanitary, hazardous conditions and shanties. This is not to discount the few who have been able to carve out a good living.

This is a glimpse into a particular type of forced migration brought on by climate change in developing countries.

What about the developed countries: have we been blessed not to have climate change impact us? Forget it!

You heard of Katrina and Sandy right? That is just a glimpse. Have you also heard of the migration within the US from the south? Well, if you count the number of migrants from New Orleans, you will be amazed. Today the population of New Orleans is roughly 80% from its peak, due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

Let’s talk about a possible scenario…right here in the US.

By 2100 Miami could be 2-4 feet under water. Why do I bring up Miami of all places? Well, that belt of the Florida coast has one of the highest asset worths in the world. Miami is “numero uno” on the list of cities under threat vis-à-vis net worth.

miami beach greenhatters.jpgImage: Flickr- James Willamor

All those multi-million dollar condos, from Trump to Sheraton and a whole bunch of big names owning multistoried condos and hotels, are going to be under water. I was traveling in Miami for the Climate Reality Project training and I saw this first hand. King Moon! The days of big high tide was called. As you drive up north on Biscayne Blvd. I found many accesses to the beach on both front with 6”+ of water and you have to drive your car slowing through the standing waters to reach some dry land and beach.

Getting back to the real estate, dilemma. The populations living in humble surroundings are locked in the middle, with expensive condo and construction on both sides of the waterfronts.

Here is the scenario, waters will continue to rise and if that happens that great property that we now have on the beaches is going to lose value. Do you want live in a place where you get your feet wet every time you step out? And so the value of those humble dwellings is going to rise. You want to live on Miami Beach right? Great… you just gotta pay more!

This is an opportunity and a curse for the humble dwellers. Good money always finds sellers who will find a convincing argument to let go of their life style, cash in and move to some place where they might not even hear the oceans. That is the opportunity, but at what cost? So this voluntary migrant is another victim of the impact of climate change–forced to migrate, for better or worse!

There are whole islands and countries that are in line to disappear, making its inhabitants migrate due to loss of livelihood and shelter.

Migration of populations has been happening for millions of years. Everybody wants to move to the center of trade and finance. It used to be mostly driven by economic reasons, whatever they may be…

But never has migration taken on this new guise, “Refugee of Climate Change!”