Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

Climate change has been on the public radar for years, thanks in part to documentaries and news reports like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The most crucial element of this problem, however, extends far beyond the natural environment; it affects all of the people on this earth. There is little public concern about the people who will be displaced and cast asunder on the planet as the result of climate change. In developed countries many do not see climate refugees as a pressing issue; others see climate change and refugee populations through the national lens...

PART ONE: Climate Refugees in the Twenty-First Century

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Introduction

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pp. 3-14

On August 6, 2015, a misty gray day, an illegal migrant was arrested in Britain after he had walked the entire thirty-one-mile length of the English Channel Tunnel. His name was Abdul Tahman Haroun, a forty-year-old Sudanese illegal immigrant who walked the tunnel to Britain from Calais, France. He was charged with malicious obstruction to a railroad carriageway. The fact that he succeeded in walking under the channel to Folkstone, England, underscores the desperation of people like him fleeing the impoverished dry lands of Sudan. On that same date...

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1 Seeking Shelter from the Storm

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pp. 15-35

In its 2007 report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that warming of the global climate system from fossil fuel emissions is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average and ocean temperatures, with widespread melting of snow and ice and a rising average global sea level. Given rising temperatures and increases in precipitation, the availability of freshwater will shift. Some areas of the planet will be much wetter, some much drier. Both drought and flooding will increase. Water stored...

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2 Refugeedom

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pp. 36-54

Until now mankind has weathered environmental crises over the millennia. The question, however, is whether human behavior in the present may be adequate for survival in the future. For 2.7 million years, humans lived within the framework of alternating ice ages and warming periods. But until the industrial age, the rate of global climate change was slow. In the past, mobility was the key to surviving climate change. That strategy is severely restricted today as the pace of climate change is breaking all records. The problem is serious, and there is no established method...

PART TWO: Pressure Points and Regional Analysis

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3 What Happens When Your Country Drowns?

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pp. 57-74

For those familiar with the term “climate change refugees,” Pacific islands may be the first thing that come to mind. There are hundreds of small, low-lying island nations in the Pacific Ocean, with pristine beaches surrounded by endless seas. They are magnificently beautiful, and a prime tourist destination, but it is easy to see how global warming imperils their existence. As the seas slowly rise—slowly but at an inevitable and increasing pace—their land disappears inch by inch. Sea level rise is a clear, inarguable result of climate change, and if it continues...

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4 The Crisis Hits Home: Climate Refugees in the United States

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pp. 75-104

Who will be the first climate change refugees in the United States? The answer depends on where you get your news. Multiple broadcast networks reported that an Alaskan town on a barrier island that will soon be swallowed by sea level rise may be the source of the country’s first climate change refugees. Other news outlets have pointed to communities in Louisiana, where an area of land the size of a football field is disappearing each hour due to fossil fuel activities, land degradation, and sea level rise. Some point to Hurricane Katrina, which displaced thousands...

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5 Latin America: Land of Rain, Land of Thirst

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pp. 105-129

Immigration crises are already at our doorstep and have been for years. Women and children are fleeing Central America by the tens of thousands, overwhelming border security. Many children are alone. Many are forced to turn back. Others stay, only to face racism and hostility, yet remain in the United States because it is better than the alternative.

The challenges of securing the border and providing care and social services to immigrants and refugees from our southern Americas are extensive enough to fill books themselves. This book discusses the...

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6 Africa: Environmental Conflicts in a War-Torn Land

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pp. 130-156

Africa is no stranger to refugees. It is home to some of the largest refugee camps in the world, with some camps hosting hundreds of thousands of people. A continent where conflict, poverty, and displacement are frequent tragedies throughout, Africa is also a land where climate science or change and refugees clearly intersect. But the connections between these migration drivers and climate change are rarely discussed. It is easy to conjure a refugee fleeing violence and war, but what about the millions who have fled homes destroyed by flash floods? And what about...

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7 Middle East: The Boiling Point of Climate Change and National Security

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pp. 157-188

In the region of the world where the refugee crisis is at its peak and most prevalent, there’s no need to hammer that environmental migration is a serious issue. But it has some roots in climate change. And the science shows that global warming may make future refugee crises more likely to happen. The key insight from all of this is that climate change made the world’s biggest ever refugee crisis more likely to happen. In the future, climatic stresses will continue to contribute to political unrest and be influential in creating even more refugees....

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8 Asia: The Looming Crisis

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pp. 189-216

A rickety boat of refugees is turned away from port after port in country after country until after months of searching for safe haven the ship crew gives up and abandons its passengers, leaving them adrift in the Andaman Sea with no food or water and only scant hope of rescue. Meanwhile, the capital of Bangladesh sees thousands of new people migrating in from their homes in the countryside, which is slowly being overtaken by rising seas. Elsewhere, Asia’s teeming urban centers and sprawling slums are dangerously close to oceans, and a single flood can devastate...

PART THREE: Policy Implications and Conclusions

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9 Current Affairs and Climate Refugees

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pp. 219-233

As actors on the world stage, refugees are hardly the helpless victims described by NGOs. Rather, they are diasporic communities that evolve and change the cultures they find themselves in, sharpen nationalistic perceptions, and make significant cultural contributions to art, poetry, and theater. Despite the cant of “right of return” or repatriation by international agencies, transfers of environmental refugees involving either repatriation or resettlement in a new country defy political reality and bump hard against economic fear and sectarian...

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10 The Shape of Things to Come

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pp. 234-259

Once it becomes clear that one of the defining characteristics of our time is the swelling flow of environmental refugees across the planet, further questions arise. What kind of world do refugees find themselves in once they are displaced by destructive storms, expanding deserts, water shortages, and dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants in the local environment? And what are the nations of the world prepared to do about it?1

How can we gauge what has happened recently to our planet in the past few decades, and where do we stand today? According to...

About the Authors

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p. 260