Last night my mother asked about the implications of the current administration’s view points on climate change. We discussed a range of topics, such as the war on science, and the role of the EPA, and the incredulity of how low income communities have water advisories because of years of acidification from coal mining.
Partway through the conversation my mom discusses what the future will look like if we don’t take immediate action, but I had to remind her that we’re already seeing the effects. We’re not just talking about the hottest years on record. We’re talking about cities having to deal with cleanups after hurricanes and superstorms; the collapse of agriculture because of drought and the food crisis it creates. We’re dealing with the mass migration of communities because their homes are slowly sinking into the earth.
We must realize that we’re not dealing in the abstract. This is happening right now.
Tuvalu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, has a total land area of 10 square miles. The average island height of the low-lying island ground is around 6.5 feet, with the country’s highest point only at 15 feet above sea level. Rising seas, storm surges and increasingly violent storms have destroyed villages, forcing generations of families to move to larger islands to seek refuge.
More than one million Syrian farmers were forced to move to overcrowded cities because of drought exacerbated by climate change. Water shortages, bad government policies and lack of employment opportunities, coupled with subsequent violence, forced Syrians to flee to Turkey, Greece and Western Europe. The drought will get worse as it continues across the Middle East and the Mediterranean region, causing more political, economic and social instability.
And it’s also happening here in the United States.
Since 1955, the Isle de Jean Charles – an island off the coast of Louisiana – has lost 98 percent of its landmass from encroaching waters from the Gulf of Mexico due to human activities. Climate change has exacerbated the issue.
In January 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the island $48 million as part of a $1 billion grant to help communities in 13 states adapt to climate change. The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, to which the majority of residents belong, became the first American community to relocate because of climate change.
Unfortunately, they will not be the last. It is projected that 414 cities in the U.S. will face similar problems to Tuvalu and Isle de Jean Charles.
More communities will migrate to new regions and compete for decreasing resources.
We must meet the needs for communities to adapt.
How will farmers and fishermen adjust to droughts, floods, water oceans and an increase in salinization? How will our government respond to vulnerable communities facing an increase in diseases and lack of access to fresh drinking water?
Our energy policies and climate action plans are connected to the refugee crisis. Let’s not wait until people have lost their homes to take action.
Take action to build support for international climate refugees, including the ones here at home.
Environmental advocate. Communications professional. Sports fan. I love television and press conferences.