boeve2_BRENDAN BANNONAFP via Getty Images_climate migrant BRENDAN BANNON/AFP via Getty Images

What About the Climate Displaced?

While providing disturbing details of the threats facing humanity on a heating planet, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has failed once again to recognize the centrality of migration. Yet the movement of people is already a key consequence of the broader climate crisis, and it could be a part of the solution.

BERKELEY – Going beyond the headline figures of rising temperatures and sea levels, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) captures the full scale of the threat to human life in a heating world. It explains how extreme weather, drought, habitat and species loss, urban heat islands, and the destruction of food sources and livelihoods are all intensifying. And the scientific community is now more certain that climate change is having a direct influence on migration.

Climate-related displacement disproportionately affects people who have contributed least to the problem. Thanks to the repeated failure of the world’s major powers to address climate change, extreme weather in Central America, fires and storms in North America, flooding across Europe and Asia, and drought in Africa are forcing people to move. Last year, the Red Cross confirmed that it was already dealing with the consequences of climate change in all 192 countries where it operates.

The IPCC report recognizes that migration is a form of climate adaptation – and that it is already occurring. This is an important correction to the widespread narrative of climate-linked displacement as a problem to be managed at some point in the future.

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