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human activity and the destruction of the planet

Oxford Research Group’s July Briefing: Climate Change, Migration and Security by Paul Rogers

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The full briefing can be found through the following link:

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/paul_rogers_monthly_briefing/climate_change_migration_and_security

This article examines the reasons behind migration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe and concludes that it is not so much due to conflict and war in the countries of origin but more due to the combined effects of climate change and economic marginalisation.

The economic factors associated with migration are described clearly by Rogers, as follows:

The first is the awareness among some millions of relatively marginalised peoples that their life chances may both be dismal and unlikely to improve. For many hundreds of thousands of people one such response is to seek to migrate to wealthier regions where work may be available. Typically in such circumstances, extended families or even wider communities may share resources to enable a fit young man to attempt the journey, hoping to succeed, find work and then send money back home and perhaps even enable relatives to join him. The journey may be fraught with danger but the rewards are sufficient when measured against the levels of desperation.

Such migratory pressures may be difficult to explain generically, given that many countries across sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing modest degrees of economic growth, but there is abundant evidence that this economic success is not shared equitably. At the same time, improving literacy and communications make marginalised communities all too aware of their predicaments. Given that there appears to be little prospect of moving towards more equitable economies, the expectation must be that migratory pressures will be maintained.”

Migrants drawning in the Mediteranean April 2015

An overloaded small boat sinking in the Mediterranean Sea

Climate change is discussed in a section on environmental factors, as follows:

In relation to climate change, two elements concerning migration are particularly relevant. One is that in many parts of the world the process is accelerating and the second is that its effects are geographically asymmetric. The rate of change in the near Arctic is currently exceeding the prediction of the most reliable computer simulations but there is also growing evidence that this is also happening in many regions across the tropics and sub-tropics. In these regions the main effects are increases in temperature and decreases in rainfall, the latter because of a trend for rainfall to be distributed away from land masses and towards the oceans and the polar region. The primary impact of this is on the ecological carrying capacity of tropical and sub-tropical agricultural systems, with the capacity to produce food much diminished.

Perhaps most important of all, this is a phenomenon that is already apparent in many parts of the Global South – it is not something for the future but is happening now. Moreover, it is directly affecting the displacement of people. Last month the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) published its Global Trends report ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June. According to the report, a record high of 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) last month predicted that:

“By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.”

That means that nearly one-quarter of the world’s population could be living on less than 500m³ of total available fresh water per year. That is Currently, World Bank data lists at least 27 countries surviving under such conditions. While a few of them, like Israel, Singapore, Malta and the Gulf States, have the wealth to invest in desalination, storage, imports or draining aquifers of millennia of deposited water, this will not be the experience of most. Indeed, even most such high-tech schemes may only last for decades, as long as the aquifers or oil wealth available.

Notably, the list of countries already experiencing absolute water scarcity includes all of the Arabian peninsula, North Africa (except Morocco) and the Levant (except Lebanon) and large parts of Central and Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa. Some of the most critically affected countries included Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Syria. It may be no coincidence that these countries are some of the world’s most conflict-affected, nor that they have produced some of the largest volumes of refugees in recent years.”

The article concludes that this is a situation to be faced now, rather than in the future and a list of four action areas are provided:

  • A much more rapid transition to ultra-low carbon economies across the industrialised world in order to mitigate the causes of climate change.
  • Assistance to the countries across the Global South that are most affected by climate change to mitigate the effects, not least in changes in agricultural practice.
  • Assistance to the same countries to develop low-carbon economies such that they may further develop and industrialise without amplifying climate change.
  • Investment in water storage and carbon-neutral desalination technologies to mitigate the impact of fresh water shortages, especially in the Global South.
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