- Climate Change and Displacement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
In 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes leading scientists from many disciplines relating to climate issues and numerous nations, issued its Fourth Assessment Report, which concluded that there is "unequivocal" evidence the Earth is significantly warming compared to temperatures since 1850. The industrial revolution initiated the massive burning of fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). The rate of warming has accelerated since 1995. The IPCC states that "[m]ost of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations."1 Furthermore, the IPCC report concluded, "There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades."2 The IPCC predicts that global temperatures will significantly rise between the time of the report and 2100, although different models predict temperature increases ranging from 1.1 to 6.4 degrees centigrade between 2007 and 2100.3 Considering the best estimates of these projected temperature increases, the IPCC predicts that both flooding and droughts will increase in certain areas, cyclones will increase in intensity, and sea levels will rise.4 As a result of these adverse changes in the environment, the IPCC predicts the potential for significant population migration as people flee areas with these problems.5
The IPCC predicted in 2007 that sea levels would rise from 7 to 23 inches (18-59 centimeters) between 2090 and 2099, relative to the levels between 1980 and 1999, based in part on the assumption that ice flow from Greenland and Antarctica will continue at the same [End Page 267] rates observed between 1993 and 2003, despite predicted higher temperatures.6 A number of scholars argue that this report underestimates the amount of sea level rise caused by melting glaciers and ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.7 In 2011, the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) concluded that the melting of Arctic ice and glaciers, including Greenland, will increase global sea levels anywhere from 35 to 63 inches (90-160 centimeters) by 2100.8 According to Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, even a three-foot rise in sea level would inundate millions of people living in low-lying cities, major river deltas, and low-lying island countries.9 For example, in 2008, the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, observed that the 300,000 islanders in his nation faced potential complete destruction of their homeland because most parts of the Maldives are only 1.5 meters above sea level. As a result the nation created a fund to hopefully buy land in other nations to relocate their citizens if the islands are inundated.10 Unfortunately, international law does not address the problem of environmental refugees searching for homes in other nations because the Refugee Convention11 has traditionally focused on refugees fleeing racial, ethnic, religious, social, or political persecution. Thus, new laws and institutions are needed to address the potentially serious problem of massive human migrations caused, in significant part, by climate change.12
To address the complex issues surrounding climate migration, Jane McAdam,13 in editing Climate Change and Displacement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, [End Page 268] has taken a new approach to the exploration of climate-induced migration. McAdam brings together the work of various researchers across a wide-range of disciplines to holistically analyze the issue, while recognizing that no single field can address all of the issues involved with climate migration.14 The disciplines of geography (political, economic, and human), sociology, law, political economy, moral philosophy, public health, medical anthropology, epidemiology, psychiatric epidemiology, international relations, and psychology are weaved throughout the collective chapters to answer the question of how climate change and displacement is considered and managed.
Viewing the book as a whole, McAdam indentifies three over-arching disciplinary approaches...