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Climate Change Is Already Driving Mass Migration Around the Globe
By Jeff Turrentine
Given the oversize role that migration plays in our current political discourse, you'd think there would be more emphasis on the one factor military and security experts believe will affect future migration patterns more than any other: .
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency that analyzes and audits federal policy to ensure its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, isn't going to let the topic go unaddressed. In a report to Congress last week, the GAO criticized the manner in which the Trump administration has sought to remove any acknowledgement of climate change from our foreign policy and diplomatic strategies, keeping experts in the dark about an issue that's growing only more urgent as a shifting climate—and all that comes with it—displaces millions of people and disrupts societies across the globe.
In the European Union, where the stresses and strains associated with processing large numbers of migrants have already reached crisis proportions, experts predict that the annual stream of those seeking safety within its borders will triple by the end of the century due to climate-related migration. And a 2018 World Bank Group report estimates that the impacts of climate change in three of the world's most densely populated developing regions—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—could result in the displacement and internal migration of more than 140 million people before 2050. That many people on the move could easily lead to massive political and economic strife and significantly stall development in those regions.
According to Steve Trent of the Environmental Justice Foundation, an organization based in the United Kingdom that advocates for environmental causes through a human rights lens, climate change "is the unpredictable ingredient that, when added to existing social, economic, and political tensions, has the potential to ignite violence and conflict with disastrous consequences." Policymakers and business leaders, he says, need to make it a top priority. In the United States, our own military leaders and foreign-policy experts agree, which is why they've worked over the years to incorporate an understanding of climate change and its geopolitical ramifications into our statecraft.
President Obama formally observed the relationship between climate change, migration, and instability in a 2016 Presidential Memorandum, Climate Change and National Security. That memo directed federal departments and agencies "to perform certain functions to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans." It also established a Climate and National Security Working Group, made up of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and many others, whose purpose was to study the issue and make informed recommendations to the national security and intelligence communities.
By breaking climate change down into its component geophysical symptoms, the memo makes a strong case for treating it as a threat multiplier, with the potential to push vulnerable states past the tipping point into chaos. "Extended drought, more frequent and severe weather events, heat waves, warming and acidifying ocean waters, catastrophic wildfires, and rising sea levels all have compounding effects on people's health and well-being," it reads. "Flooding and water scarcity can negatively affect food and energy production. Energy infrastructure, essential for supporting other key sectors, is already vulnerable to extreme weather and may be further compromised." Also listed among the concerns are transportation disruptions, pest outbreaks, the spread of invasive species, and disease. All of these, in the words of the memo, "can lead to population migration within and across international borders, spur crises, and amplify or accelerate conflict in countries or regions already facing instability and fragility."
Obama's memo painted a dire picture. But it wasn't dire enough, apparently, to earn the respect of President Trump, who revoked it in March 2017 in a sweeping executive order that also rescinded a number of other Obama-era memos and executive orders related to climate change. In case anyone misunderstood his rationale for essentially stripping any and all mention of climate change from the executive branch, he spelled it out. "[I]t is the policy of the United States that executive departments and agencies . . . immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law."
Last Thursday the GAO weighed in on Trump's decision—and deemed it seriously shortsighted. At the end of its report, Climate Change: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration, it concludes that State Department missions are less likely now than they were before to recognize climate change "as a risk to their strategic objectives." It recommends reinstating guidance for diplomats and other foreign service workers "that clearly documents the department's process for climate change risk assessments for integrated country strategies." Or, to translate from the GAO's carefully calibrated nonpartisan language into plain English: Enough with the gag order, guys. You're putting our diplomatic corps at a strategic disadvantage and doing a real disservice to American interests abroad.
The sad yet predictable postscript to the report? According to the GAO, the State Department has grudgingly accepted its recommendation and says it will "update its integrated country strategy guidance by June 30" to inform missions that they have the option, at least, to talk about climate resilience officially without fear of punishment. But the administration couldn't let the GAO go without smacking it down for its insolence. In its response, the State Department also hinted that it was strongly considering rescinding yet another Obama-era executive order related to climate resilience and international development.
Meanwhile, new stories continue to come out every day—in Bangladesh, in Syria, in Mexico and Central America—that confirm the worst fears of security experts and foreign aid workers and reveal the administration's blasé attitude for what it actually is: a willful ignorance of the facts, mixed with an utter contempt for those who put facts before ideology.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
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The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear – symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.
Telehealth Versus Traditional Therapy<p><a href="https://www.cigna.com/hcpemails/telehealth/telehealth-flyer.pdf" target="_blank">Private insurance companies</a> like Cigna and Aetna, have come around; they now provide coverage for what they see as a "legitimate" service. And <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-wells-2019-consumer-survey-finds-majority-of-consumers-open-to-telehealth-adoption-continues-to-grow-300906438.html" target="_blank">surveys show</a> consumers are receptive to telehealth counseling: no driving to an appointment, no searching for a parking space, no worries about childcare while they're away, no need to switch providers if they move, and no problem if the specialist happens to be far away.</p><p>Online therapy opens doors for clients who wouldn't otherwise seek help, <a href="https://www.worldcat.org/title/empirical-examination-of-the-influence-of-personality-gender-role-conflict-and-self-stigma-on-attitudes-and-intentions-to-seek-online-counseling-in-college-students/oclc/941976505" target="_blank">particularly patients</a> who feel stigmatized by therapy or intimidated by a stranger sitting across the room from them. Often, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1089/1094931041291295" target="_blank">people open up</a> more easily in telehealth sessions. Firsthand accounts have detailed <a href="https://www.romper.com/p/i-tried-online-therapy-for-a-month-this-is-what-happened-13630" target="_blank">positive experiences from consumers</a>.</p>
Overcoming Prejudices About Online Counseling<p>Now COVID-19 is forcing most traditional psychotherapists to adapt their practice to <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/202003/covid-19-etherapy-in-times-isolation" target="_blank">online counseling</a>. After experiencing the medium, they are <a href="https://www.wecounsel.com/blog/why-every-therapist-in-private-practice-needs-a-telehealth-option/" target="_blank">overcoming their prejudices</a>. Many will convert some or all of their caseloads to telehealth after the pandemic ends. Most of our clients seem to be good with it: responding to a satisfaction survey, 85% of USF students strongly or somewhat agreed their telehealth experience was comparable to an in-person visit.</p><p>All this allows a continuity of care for clients that before was impossible; there is, however, a caveat. Because of the coronavirus, some of my clients at USF who live out-of-state have moved back home. That means, legally, I can no longer serve them. Even though they are still USF students, my license is valid only in Florida.</p><p>For telehealth to work effectively, our national system of licensing and regulation law needs to adapt. Although the federal government temporarily halted HIPAA regulations to promote telehealth during this time, not all states are allowing out-of-state practice. The coronavirus may not be here forever, but spring break and Christmas holidays always will. We need seamless telehealth across state lines.</p>
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Southeast Asia is one of the biggest sources of plastic waste from land to the ocean, and Thailand is among the top five contributors. In January, Thailand placed a ban on single-use plastic, and was looking to reduce its plastic waste by 30% this year.
Food Delivery<p>One of the biggest contributors to the plastic problem is food delivery. As people have been housebound, their tendency to order food delivery has risen, resulting in increased usage of plastic containers and wrapping material.</p><p>Grab, a Singaporean food delivery app, saw a surge of 400% in orders. Other such apps like Line Man and Foodpanda Thailand, too, have seen a rise of 300% and 50% in their orders, respectively.</p><p>Waste from a single delivery could contain several plastic items such as containers, seasoning packets, beverage holders, chopsticks, spoons, forks and so on.</p><p>"Plastic containers for food are often contaminated, the waste separation and collection are not systematic, and there is no regulation on waste separation and enforcement," said Wijarn Simachaya, President of TEI.</p>
Waste Management<p>While countries across North America, Europe and Japan also contribute high levels of plastic waste, they have relatively efficient waste management systems in place.</p><p>The Thai government had released a "Plastic Waste Management Road Map," to phase out the use of plastic by 2030. One of the initiatives of this plan was the single-use plastic ban that has been enforced since January.</p><p>According to data released by the Department of Environment and Quality Promotion, an average person in Thailand uses about 8 plastic bags per day, which adds up to 200 billion per year.</p>
Widespread<p>Some say the pandemic has merely brought to the surface an already existing problem for the country. Experts believe that greater awareness and lifestyle changes among the masses could help address this issue.</p><p>The effects of plastic waste are long term. The pollution affects the oceans, aquatic life and also humans.</p><p>"Plastic pollution may also be contaminating the air that we breathe every day. Plastics do not biodegrade, therefore once they are introduced into an animal's system, they will stay there for a long time. Therefore, consuming these plastics leads to malnutrition, digestive blockage and slow poisoning effects due to plastic's heightened toxicity," Simachaya told DW.</p><p>While the pandemic may have been a setback to Thailand's struggle to eliminate plastic waste, Simachaya believes a change in awareness and habits will lead to a gradual decrease in plastic waste.</p><p>Thailand is slowly starting to ease lockdown rules. While it is too premature to say whether the plastic waste levels are expected to go down, some delivery outlets have started offering bio-degradable containers and cutlery. Some online shopping companies are also giving the option of receiving packages without the use of plastic.</p>
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