Quantcast

How Many Climate Change Refugees Should America Let In?

Climate

The United Nations estimates that climate change will create 200 million migrants and refugees throughout the world. How many climate change refugees should America let in?

A vote in the U.S. House of Representatives last week created a firestorm of controversy about how many refugees from Syria should be allowed in the U.S. The House vote, which would further restrict Syrians from entering America, received support from nearly all the Republicans and 47 Democrats, including my Colorado Democratic Congressman Jared Polis.

The controversy mostly centered around the cultural issue of allowing Syrians to enter the U.S., but the vote also raised a significant issue about the sheer number of refugees that may want to enter the U.S. in the future.

As climate change accelerates, the international refugee crisis will get worse, which should cause all of us to think through how many climate-change refugees are going to need relocation assistance now and in the future. Many political and environmental analysts have made the case that the war and refugee crisis in Syria is directly related to the country’s climate-change caused drought. The title of a recent New York Times article makes this point very clear, Researchers Link Syrian Conflict to Drought Made Worse by Climate Change. And, in an exclusive Sky News interview, England's Prince Charles affirmed that climate change is the “root cause of the Syrian war.”

I raised the climate change refugee issue in a tweet to Rep. Polis. He responded by pointing me to a letter he signed to President Obama indicating that he supports allowing many more refugees into the U.S. than President Obama—Obama wants to allow “at least 10,000,” while Polis’ letter supports allowing 10 times that, 100,000.

Whether it’s 10,000 or 100,000 entering the U.S., this situation offers a foreshadowing of America’s future in a warming world. The refugee problem will intensify dramatically in the coming years and decades. Unstable regions of the world will likely become more unstable due to climate change, whether it's from drought, flooding or sea level rise.

Here are three questions Americans and policymakers need to grapple with:

1. What countries are likely to experience dramatic floods, droughts and sea-level rise that might need large-scale human relocation due to climate change?

2. What could be the total number of people needing relocation due to climate change?

3. How many climate-change refugees is the U.S. willing to accept in the coming years? 50,000? 5 million? More?

Last week the LA Times reported that El Niño is the strongest ever recorded in history because of climate change and it “may trigger floods, famine and sickness in much of the world.” A huge situation with climate change refugees may be upon us much earlier than we think. News reports say that at least 12 million Syrians have left their homes due to the war (half are children), 4 million have left the country and at least 700,000 have fled to Europe. The Syrian refugee crisis should serve as a huge wake up call. We need to have a plan when, not if, the relocations are needed.

Gary Wockner, PhD, is an international environmental activist and writer based in Colorado. Contact: Gary@GaryWockner.com.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Prince Charles: Climate Change Root Cause of Syrian War

Bernie Sanders Refuses to Back Down on Climate-Terrorism Connection

Mark Jacobson: Barriers to 100% Clean Energy are Social and Political, Not Technical or Economic

Why ISIS Wants the Paris Climate Talks to Fail

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less