More and more people are being forced to become climate refugees as climate change continues to change the world and affect lives.
What are “Climate Refugees”
Climate refugees is not an extremely accurate term since the internationally used definition of the word “refugee” means a person who has crossed an international border for “…fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (UNHCR). The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees instead says that the more correct name for people displaced as a result of climate change would be “persons displaced in the context of disasters and climate change.”
Unfortunately, there is not universal plan for protecting people displaced by climate change and natural disasters. NPR reports that, since 2008, an average of 24 million people are forced from their homes every year as a result of “catastrophic weather disasters.” It is estimated that around 2300 Puerto Rican families are still without permanent residence as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The United States withdrew from an international refugee program in December with concerns that it would collide with the current administration’s immigration plans.
Some climate change experts and refugee advocates are pushing for education opportunities for impacted regions and its inhabitants in order to help keep them in their homes and limit the number of “climate refugees” needed to migrate to a different country. For example, teaching farmers drought tolerance techniques, raising homes in floodplains, and more. These methods of educating locals help protect against climate shock and lessen the international impact of localized climate shock occurrences.
How can you help?
Contact your local representatives by email, phone, or mail and encourage them to support regulations for climate refugees trying to enter the country. You can also diminish your climate impact by doing things like taking shorter showers, eating less meat, carpooling, using public transportation, and more! Look up “ways to decrease climate impact” to see full lists.
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