This year (especially being an election year), the headlines are constantly filled with news of Syrian refugees fleeing across the mediterranean, and of course, debate about Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to build a massive wall across the entirety of the US-Mexico border, with the goal of keeping undocumented immigrants out.
The Syrian refugee crisis and the crisis on our own border that has been present for years both show the inability of European countries, the United States, Mexico, and much of the world to deal swiftly and effectively with humanitarian crises of these magnitudes.
I first became interested in border politics and migrant rights through my classes and experiences as a Hispanic studies minor. Last fall, I spent a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico studying the push-pull factors of migration from Central America, through Mexico, and to our southern border, focused on the migrant’s experience while traveling through Mexico.
Some of my favorite photos from my semester in Oaxaca, Mexico.
While not necessarily main factors on the US-Mexico border now, drought, lower crop yields, and increased frequency of natural disasters (all generally accepted consequences of climate change) could cause large numbers of people to migrate away from severely affected areas.
What will we do when climate change forces more people to migrate within their home countries and across borders? In this blogpost, I wanted to look at the US-Mexico border in a distant future where climate change is likely to produce large numbers of “climate refugees”.
Right now, immigration from Mexico is the lowest it has been in about a decade. The majority of undocumented immigrants coming across the border are actually from Central America. However, a 2010 study found that increasing numbers of Mexicans would migrate north due to predicted effects of climate change.
The study found that even a 10% reduction in crop yield (mainly corn) would cause an extra 2% of Mexicans to migrate north. A previous study found that each one degree celsius of global temperature increase would decrease corn yields by 5-15%. This means that between 1.4 and 6.7 million Mexicans could be migrating to the United States by 2080.
One significant obstacle that the US (and other countries worldwide) will have to deal with is that the term “refugee” only applies to “those fleeing persecution on the basis of five clearly specified criteria - race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. It does not apply to those forced to leave their countries because of disasters, environmental degradation, or the effects of climate change.” Although used frequently, the term “climate change refugee” has no meaning in international law. The Platform on Disaster Displacement has been working to combat this issue, advocate for displaced persons around the world, and foster international cooperation in humanitarian protection of people displaced by natural disasters.
However, if the US is to effectively handle an influx of Mexican climate change refugees, one important thing needs to happen: we need a greater number of Americans to truly understand that global warming is caused by humans. A 2008 Gallup poll found that while 97% of Americans had knowledge of climate change, only 49% believed that global warming is caused by humans.
How can we be expected to empathetically deal with this probable humanitarian crisis if we are unable to come to terms with why it exists in the first place?
In stark contrast to the US, 71% of Mexicans believe that global warming is caused by humans. Why the large difference? The answer is complicated, but one aspect I would like to focus on is privilege.
Americans understand less about climate change and global warming because they are privileged enough to be able to do so. 1.4 million Americans will not be moving to Mexico because of the effects of climate change. I am not saying that climate change isn’t currently affecting Americans. It is, and will surely continue to do so in the future. Americans that are displaced by disasters or rising sea levels will most likely migrate to different parts of the US. Mexico and other countries south of the border will be more susceptible to droughts and severe water shortages than most of the US.
The US-Mexico border is the longest in the world between a wealthy and poor country. One of my favorite authors, Gloria Anzaldúa, wrote that “The US-Mexico border es una herida abierta (is an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” The effects of climate change will only exacerbate the inequality between our two countries.
During this election season, many comments have been made along the lines of, “If Trump wins, I’ll just move to Canada.” Because we are privileged, we take it for granted that a foreign country would simply accept us on such a whim. Others are not so lucky.
The most drastic separation of nations since the fall of the Berlin Wall occurred this summer. For millennials, Brexit—or the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union—takes the cake for biggest upheaval in global governance in our lifetime. How will this affect the upcoming COP22 meeting in Morocco?
A look back on Brexit…
The vote for Britain’s exit from the European Union stemmed from, among other things, a rejection of centralized decision making. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) championed a call for Britain’s reclamation of rule. They want an autonomous ability to regulate their economy, job market, and borders.
The referendum had a bit over 70% voter turnout. The majority vote for ‘Leave’ won with 55% of votes. Scotland, North Ireland and London voted to ‘Remain’, but were outvoted overall. The UK is out.
Why should I care?
The Brexit vote validates the wave of nationalistic sentiment that is creeping into major political scenes; Le Pen of France, Farage of Britain, Wilders of the Netherlands and Trump here at home are all heads of the same nationalistic beast. Brexit stands as evidence that voters are attracted to the idea of ‘independence’, embodied in closing borders and avoiding extensive negotiations with other nations. Many feel it is time to take care of those at home than those in need elsewhere.
I’m sure that many Americans, myself included, are now concerned that Trump has stronger grounds to stand on post-Brexit. It makes me afraid that the wall he so often speaks of might become a reality: if not physically, bureaucratically. And with the rising need for international cooperation to combat climate change, we need more weak ties between nations and less fear of nationalistic, isolationists ruling parties.
How does this effect global climate negotiations?
The rise of nationalism and tightening borders will make it far more difficult to have a meaningful and effective discussion about how to tackle climate change. Mitigation and adaptation cannot be achieved unless they are approached in a global, cooperative manner. We need multilateral action for change: that will be very difficult if international relations become inwardly focused. Countries such as the U.S. and Britain will not be the first to be impacted by climate change--will they thus focus solely on their home soil, and choose to implement climate change adaptation merely when it is convenient for them?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released their Fifth Assessment Report, which states that global mean sea level rise is “very likely” to continue at a faster rate than the previous few decades. According to the IPCC report, small island settlements, infrastructure, economic services and economic stability are at “medium risk” in the near-term future (2030-2040). Risks at low-lying coastal areas are even higher, threatening coastal erosion and livelihoods.
With global leaders looking inward, instead of at the larger picture, who will step up to work with these threatened nations to adopt mitigation policies or create adaptation plans? And should the worst occur, who will help those affected find safe and welcoming new homes?
What should we look out for at COP 22?
Aside from Brexit’s implications for increased nationalism and isolationist tendencies, there next comes the question of representation. In international treaties and trade negotiations, the EU sent one body of representatives to speak for the entire union. There was not a German delegate, a French delegate, a Scottish delegate, and so on. It was one entity spoken for by a shared representative.
It will take a while for the UK to adapt to its new role in European and international relations. Meanwhile, we must watch as the budget changes in the near future. Hopefully no money is re-allocated away from renewable energy programs and regulations aimed at meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
When I think back to my childhood, some of my favorite memories include wading through a local creek looking for crayfish, catching red efts at my Grandparent’s farm, and hiking through the mountains of Pennsylvania. I felt at home in nature and was constantly intrigued and amazed by the beauty surrounding me. Today, time spent in nature stills feels like coming home and conjures up feeling of gratefulness. I realize that these experiences are not shared among everyone.
I want you to consider what you are most grateful for in your life.
Let this sink in.
Perhaps, it is your family, a special person or group of people. Perhaps, it is your journey, the experiences, good and bad, that have shaped you into the unique person you are. Or, perhaps, it is your faith, a set of values that supports your belief in something greater than yourself.
Hold on to your thought.
In May 2013, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa with Bucknell University students and faculty to study the lasting effects of apartheid. While there, I learned a valued term known as, “Ubuntu,” which means, “I am because you are.” One small word that suggests the interconnectivity of all things. The term moved me deeply and even today is incredibly powerful to me. Translated personally, I see that the people who come in and out of my life, those who stay for a brief moment or for many years, have all impacted me and contributed to the person I am today and will be tomorrow.
Let’s return to your original thought: what YOU are grateful for. Like Ubuntu describes, we (and all that we are thankful for) exist because of our connections to one another. Now, imagine if nature, your surrounding environment, was in poor health…
What if your family lacked access to clean drinking water or unpolluted air?
What if your journey was interrupted by a natural disaster: a hurricane, tornado, or drought?
What if there was no creation or planet Earth to worship?
As you can see, our connections to one another do not end with people we encounter, they are intimately woven into the environment in which we live. Charles Cook, author of “Awakening to Nature,” wrote, “Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.” Each and every one of us is affected by the environment, and we have an effect on the environment in return.
In November 2016, COP22 will occur in Morocco. Leaders from around the world will once again meet to implement plans of action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. It is undeniably a powerful meeting of world leaders. But, positive change for the environment cannot be made solely by politicians and scientists. It will take action by all people.
My passion lies at the intersection of the environment and humanity. I love nature but recognize that climate change is also an issue of human rights. My dedication to protecting nature stems from a passion for the environment and an understanding of its threats. I envision a future where we all recognize our individual connections to the environment and actively contribute our strengths to making the world a better place.
We each have our own stories filled with people, places, and experiences that we are grateful for. Despite our differences, we are all united by the planet we live on. We have the power to create positive changes that can lead to global change for the environment. I challenge you to consider your connection to the environment, how it influences your loved ones, your journey, and your surroundings. Before positive change is possible, we need to care about the environment in need. In the end, I hope that nature is grateful for us. Ultimately, we are because nature is.
Alice Henderson: Anger and Optimism Approaching COP 22 (a lesson in complex reaction kinetics)
As a Resident Assistant in a university international residence hall this past spring semester, I found myself hosting a discussion of the November Paris Climate Change Conference, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). During this discussion of articles related to COP 21, I was simultaneously surprised and intrigued by the variety of strong emotions expressed by my peers and faculty members ranging from anger to discouragement and frustration to optimism and hope.
The way people think is extremely relevant towards the actions they take. As such, emotions engaged and presented as we move closer to COP 22 are important to consider. Similarly, in chemistry, we analyze how reactions happen and what factors affect the rates at which they occur as described by reaction kinetics. As this post’s title suggests, the development of international climate policy presents much more complex kinetics than the first and second order reactions you might encounter in an introductory course.
After a particularly discouraging comment towards the end of my discussion, I closed our coffee hour with a humorous yet persuasive YouTube video “Break The Internet – Nicholas Hulot” by Golden Moustache, a French comedy channel. In the video, French environmentalist Nicholas Hulot meets with a team of three internet outreach experts to determine the best way to advertise his petition, an effort for public mobilization leading up to COP 21. The team suggests several options including a dramatic scene with Hulot rising from the dark to save the planet, two young men making fart jokes, a viral cat video with Hulot’s face inserted, and a version of the video game Streetfighter where Hulot’s character pulls out a petition instead of ammunition. The final version, against the media team’s better judgement, is a simple, inspirational message “à l’Américain” or “in the American way.” However, almost more satisfying to me was the violent and borderline profane sketch where the actor smashes a globe with a baseball bat out of sheer fury at public inaction.
The anger expressed in this mini sketch relates to the anger many environmental activists and supporters feel in the face of snail-paced international action and the seeming apathy of both leaders and the public. In similar fashion, YouTube star and singer/songwriter Hank Green encouraged viewers to get angry regarding the 2030 UN Global Goals- not because the goals aren’t good goals but because we still have so far to go towards achieving them. He shouts at the camera “…if you do care, then you kind of definitionally have to be angry! Because it’s infuriating!” While polite society often tries to limit and suppress angry sentiments, Green argues that anger can be useful way to engage people in important issues.
However, as I reflect on my coffee hour discussion, the problem with anger is that it can be exhausting to those expressing it as well as those to whom the anger is expressed. Furthermore, exhaustion often leads to discouragement and hopelessness as was expressed by a faculty member at my discussion who had little faith in the international actions against climate change
…if you do care, then you kind of definitionally have to be angry! Because it’s infuriating! - Hank Green
Surprisingly, I learned that the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres herself had little faith in the international processes in place when she first accepted her position. At the 2016 TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, and Design: a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas through short, powerful talks), Figueres recounts her first press conference as the Executive Secretary when asked if she thought a climate change agreement was possible and she responded, “Not in my lifetime.”
Figueres continues to describe how she shifted her attitude, her emotional processing of diplomatic negotiations in order to motivate global leaders. In her talk she adamantly argues that “There is no way you can deliver victory without optimism.” Optimism, hope and courage are all powerful motivators that impacted the outcomes of COP 21 according to Figueres. However, looking forward to COP22, it is also clear that this cannot blind us to the size of the task ahead. Figueres closes her talk, “We’ve only just started our work on climate change… But I do believe that we have come, over the past six years, from the impossible to the now unstoppable."
While the slow pace of negotiations is most definitely worthy of anger, without optimism the sustained action and cooperation necessary will never be achieved; and while anger can be exhausting, it too can be a useful motivator and is an important component in our hypothetical chemical reaction of international government action on climate change.
We’ve only just started our work on climate change… But I do believe that we have come, over the past six years, from the impossible to the now unstoppable. - Christiana Figueres
1) Misconception: Greenhouse gases are all bad!
Reality: That is actually not true at all. Greenhouse gasses are very important in keeping earth at a moderate temperature. Without them earth would be too cold and with too much GHG’s earth would become too hot; that is why we should limit our carbon and other greenhouse gas foot print to a sustainable level. Everything in moderation!
2) Misconception: Scientists are not 100% sure/ are still arguing that the causes of climate change may or may not be anthropogenic/ human caused.
Reality: Scientists have actually nearly all agreed that the level of climate change that has been seen in the last century or so is highly due to anthropogenic sources. The extent/degree to which humans have caused it, and the extent to which it is natural is what is still under debate.
3) Misconception: Carbon dioxide levels are not that high currently, this is because the earth has different cycles and this is just another cycle.
Reality: Yes, the earth and atmosphere both have different cycles where the gasses vary from year to year and even century to century. But the truth is that carbon dioxide in todays atmosphere is higher than it has ever been in the last 800,000 years (we know that because we can detect it in different things i.e. rocks), and the more saddening thing is that United States produces one-fourth of the CO2 pollution from the burning of fossil-fuels.
4) Misconception: The sea level rise we see and will see is not that drastic.
Reality: The IPCC stated in a 2007 report, sea levels will rise by 7-23 inches by the end of this century due to global warming. This will lead to more than a million species facing potential extinction as a result of disappearing habitats, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.
5) Misconception: It is too late to change our habits, and the adverse effects we have caused our planet to face.
Reality: That is definitely not the case, we all have a duty to protect the planet that sustains us, it is not too late to change little things in our daily habits and try to reverse some of the problems we have caused. But a failure in preventing further global warming will eventually cause a major economic collapse and lead to massive food and water shortages. The longer we wait to fix this problem the more we augment it.
Hi everyone! My name is Taylor Yurasits and I am from Lehighton Pennsylvania. I will be a uprising junior at York College Pennsylvania studying Forensic Chemistry and working towards a minor in Criminal Justice. My interest in climate change increased from understanding how it affects different parts of the world and how it affects the human body. I am very excited to be part of this journey and COP 22!
Over the years, the earth has beginning to increase in temperature which is also causing the temperatures to rise throughout the world. The cause of this is the excessive emission of greenhouses gases into our air we breathe. There has been more and more heat waves that last longer over time that are causing fatal health affects to our body. Studies have shown that approximately in the United States, more than 1,300 deaths are because of extreme heat. Since climate change has been progressing, the mortality rate for extreme heat has been much greater than extreme cold. The mortality rate is expected to increase because of the earth's temperature continuing to grow. Studies have shown there is an increase in infant deaths throughout the world and will continue to rise. Climate change is projected to start affecting the respiratory system, hormones, urinary system, genitals. Not only does climate change cause death but scientists expect there to be an increase in heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease, and kidney disorders. The extreme heat is also affecting other problems. For example the quality of the air is changing throughout the world. This can lead to an increase in allergens. Poor air quality will cause more diseases to arise and faster spread of disease will increase. Our body is trying to adapt to the warmer weather but climate change is happening too fast we cannot catch up.
The picture above is showing the projected deaths that are caused from the warming of the Earth's core. In April and September, there are several areas that have a predicted 100.1 to 150.0 million deaths and 150.0 to 201.0 million deaths. These are the results intended for the year 2100 by using a baseline from 1990. The amount of deaths that are predicted to be affected by climate change can be controlled if we control the temperature increase. The previous Conference of Parties was held in Paris, France in 2015. The parties discussed the Paris Agreement, which is to limit the temperature increase to 1.5ᵒC, and at least 55 countries had to join for the agreement to become legal. 174 countries signed the agreement in New York on April 22nd, 2016.
U.S. Global Change Research Program. Temperature-Related Death and Illness. https://health2016.globalchange.gov/temperature-related-death-and-illness
Hello, readers! My name is Maddie Smith and I am a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. I am majoring in chemistry and minoring in environmental studies and Hispanic studies, and am passionate about social and environmental justice issues. I am so excited for the opportunity to attend COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco and to spend the next few months blogging about climate change and social justice!
This past semester my analytical chemistry professor showed my class the following graphic:
Virtual water balance per country and direction of gross virtual water flows related to trade in agricultural and industrial products over the period 1996–2005.
The figure shows the water that goes into producing agricultural and industrial products and which countries import or export this “virtual water”. Green means a country is a net exporter of products that use lots of water, and red means it is a net importer. Countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia are the biggest exporters, while Mexico, much of Europe, and parts of the Middle East and Africa are net importers. The paper this figure is from looks at worldwide water footprints (WFs) in terms of production and consumption.
A 2012 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) special report estimates that by 2025 nearly 1/2 billion people “could see increased water resources stress as a result of climate change.” It is predicted that rainfall will increase in certain places, such as parts of Asia, and severely decrease in the Middle East and parts of Africa, places on the map that are already net virtual water importers. In short: areas with abundant rainfall now will receive more in the future, areas prone to droughts now will only suffer from more stressed water resources in the future, especially as global population continues to grow. As water becomes scarcer in these countries, conflicts will become more frequent. History shows us this has already happened and is even happening today.
Riots broke out in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000 because Bechtel, a multinational American corporation made a deal with the Bolivian government to privatize the municipal water supply. The company needed to fund the construction of a dam, so rates were raised so much that the poor of the city could not afford water anymore. For many families the monthly water bill increased to $20 in a city where the minimum wage for one month’s worth of work was less than $100. The poorest people in the city would have had to choose between having water or food. Because of the riots, Bechtel left Bolivia and the government reversed the legislation that had allowed for privatization of the city’s water. The future of countries with scarce water resources could include water privatization and/or an increase in rates as less water is available for a growing population. In such a scenario it is certain that the poor will always lose.
I initially became interested in water politics due to climate change this past year when Dr. Vandana Shiva came to speak at my university. She is an expert and activist on issues regarding food, indigenous rights, environmental effects of globalization, and corporate imperialism. During the talk she mentioned the rise of ISIS in Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria, and argued that the conditions under which these groups gained power were related to droughts in these countries. In 2015, presidential candidate Martin O’Malley made the same connection between ISIS and climate change. Obviously, climate change cannot solely be to blame for ISIS’ reign of terror in Syria and Iraq. However, O’Malley and Dr. Shiva argue that a severe drought from 2006-2009 displaced rural farmers into Syria’s cities, exacerbating the country’s problems. When Bashar al-Assad’s government continued to fail to fix things civil war erupted, and ISIS emerged from the chaos. Politifact rates O’Malley’s claim of a connection between the rise of ISIS and the mega-drought caused by climate change mostly true. The authors of a scientific paper titled “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria” agree that O’Malley’s argument simply takes one more reasonable step past the conclusions of their study.
We can all agree that the situations in Syria and Nigeria are horrible. It is just as terrifying that climate change is already playing a role in shaping conflicts around the world. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 22.5 million people worldwide have already been displaced by climate or weather related events since 2008. As climate change continues to cause extreme weather events and stressed water resources, it is likely the number of climate refugees will increase substantially.