Peter Mellgard writes: The hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe or dying on the way to its shores could be a harbinger of things to come, researchers and policymakers warn, because a potentially greater driver of displacement looms on the horizon: climate change.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned at a recent State Department-led conference on climate change in the Arctic, the scenes of chaos and heartbreak in Europe will be repeated globally unless the world acts to mitigate climate change.
“Wait until you see what happens when there’s an absence of water, an absence of food, or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival,” Kerry said.
World leaders have long warned that natural disasters and degraded environments linked to climate change could — indeed, have already started to — drive people from their homes. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres declared in 2009 that climate change will create millions of refugees and internally displaced populations. “Not only states, but cultures and identities will be drowned,” Guterres said.
Displacement is already happening in some parts of the world. Almost 28 million people on average were displaced by environmental disasters every year between 2008 and 2013, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center — roughly three times as many as were forced from their homes by conflict and violence. [Continue reading…]