Human Rights Day: Climate change and its unimaginable impacts on human migration
Dec 07, 2016

Human Rights Day: Climate change and its unimaginable impacts on human migration

By Steve Trent

There really is no place like home.

But for millions of people around the world, the security and comfort that home offers is being stripped away.

As senior military officials warned at a Chatham House event last week, climate change is on course to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”.

Climate impacts have already been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency - all of which have been driving factors in the current refugee crisis witnessed across Europe.

Over the last decade millions of people have been displaced by climate change.

Since, 2008, weather-related extremes alone have caused 21.5 million people to flee their homes every year – that’s 58,900 people a day; or 41 people every single minute.

Meanwhile, climate change impacts are also acting as “an accelerant” of instability; a threat multiplier bringing with them more security risks, more conflict, and in turn ever greater displacement.

As Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, a former commander of the UK maritime forces and the UK’s climate and energy security envoy, said:

“Climate change is a strategic security threat that sits alongside others like terrorism and state-on-state conflict, but it also interacts with these threats. It is complex and challenging; this is not a concern for tomorrow, the impacts are playing out today.”

Left unchecked, rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will pose a huge risk for food security, increase competition for water, threaten public health, exacerbate existing social tensions, and as states fail to respond, increase the risk of terrorism.

Climate change needs to be recognized as the true security threat that it is.

Failing to address these risks now, and to limit them by drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, will leave countries scrambling to tackle the costly threats to national security.

But while this global challenge requires a global solution, this Human Rights Day we cannot forget the individual. Each of the millions at risk from climate displacement is a one; a person with their own story and their own family.

At EJF, we are working for each and every person threatened by the looming impacts of climate change, for each and every climate refugee.

That’s why we are calling for a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, to examine the issues surrounding climate change and human mobility, and help protect the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations within and across countries.

We need this leadership role to help cement climate migration onto the global agenda, and protect the rights of those forced to flee in the wake of global warming’s devastating consequences.

What would you do if it was your home disappearing? The place you felt safest being engulfed by the ocean? Or slowly but surely becoming uninhabitable because of heatwaves or drought?

Climate change is not waiting. It is happening now, and people are being displaced by its consequences every day.

Their plight must be heard, and we must act to prevent the “greatest security threat of the 21st Century” today; for climate refugees, tomorrow is too late.

With your help we can further the fight to protect climate refugees.