I’ve just come back from a screening of the film Climate Refugees. It is a documentary about the increasing number of people escaping climate chaos. Whether you believe global climate change is due to man or is a natural cycle, the fact is our climate is changing rapidly and we really aren’t doing much about it, and certainly not fast enough. The film itself was decent but not the best out there, and a little too doom and gloom (and really, was it necessary to have Ed Begley, Jr. encouraging people to buy energy efficient light bulbs? Aren’t we passed that stage?
) But the theme of the movie is something to give proper consideration to, as floods, hurricanes, droughts, etc. force citizens to migrate, sometimes to other countries.
Above all, it is a national security issue, as even our own Pentagon knows and is preparing for, whether it be rescuing people from disasters or attempting to deal with conflicts arising from increasingly scarce resources.
As for refugees, Bangladesh is a country one often hears about in relation to climate change. Even a minor sea level rise could displace many Bangladeshis, a nation at sea level. Where will they go? Perhaps to India, though the Indian government is building a barbed wire fence between them. Officially, the fence is to prevent smuggling and keep out terrorists and illegal immigrants (already a source of tension). But the next big cyclone affecting a large percentage of the Bangladeshi population may force migration to safer land, namely neighboring India. Granted, it is not a high-tech border fence that will be all that successful in preventing crossings, but symbolically it says a lot.
India is not exactly in the best position to accept refugees, be they fleeing disasters or political strife. Melting glaciers in Tibet that feed the Ganges and Bhramaputra Rivers are starting to disappear, a serious threat to India’s water situation. Add to that China damming the rivers, thereby reducing the rivers’ flow. Droughts, floods, pollution, disease, population growth and a host of other climate-related impacts are all being grappled with in India.
Scientists estimate that by 2050 up to 15 million people could be displaced due to climate change. India may not have contributed to the problem, but it will need to deal with it, as will almost all countries. Are we all part of the human family, a point raised by a Tuvalu islander in the movie, or will it be every man, or country, for itself?