Coming in 2020: 50 Million Environmental Refugees
“In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees,”declared of California, Los Angeles professor Cristina Tirado at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). “When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate,” she continued.
In 2001 Norman Myers of Oxford University called environmental refugees as a “new phenomenon.” Myers described them as “people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with the associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty.” Myers added, “In their desperation, these people feel they have no alternative but to seek sanctuary elsewhere, however hazardous the attempt.”
Given the projected amount of environmental refugees, the world does not have time to wait for a “bluer” U.S. congress to enact climate change legislation. However, there may be ways to combat climate change without the U.S. putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing black carbon (soot) and ozone levels “will slow the rate of climate change in the first half of the 21st century,” according to a new report released in Nairobi Kenya by the UN Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization.
Black carbon is released from fires and diesel vehicles. Cook stoves are used in the developing world that burn wood, charcoal or kerosene. Ozone is a gas created when chemicals (including methane and carbon monoxide) are warmed by the sun. Both black carbon and ozone contribute to climate change. Replacing diesel generators and cook stoves with cleaner models would reduce black carbon levels. Reducing methane levels would help reduce ozone.
The United Nations Environment Program’s report concludes that a “small number of emission reduction measures targeting black carbon and ozone precursors could immediately begin to protect climate, public health, water and food security, and ecosystems.”
“This assessment describes a critical opportunity for the world that is completely within our reach,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington, said about the report.
“Even without considering the profound climate benefits,” he said, “the benefits for health and agriculture alone justify fast and aggressive action.”