Climate Change Refugees (1st of two comments)

Last year approximately one million refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria sought asylum somewhere in the world.  The largest group of refugees risked their lives travelling to Europe.  Many perished en route when the small, overloaded boats taking them to Greece sank or capsized. Everyone has seen the pictures of the grief of the survivors.

The size of this “migration” is causing unrest. Countries on the migration route are closing their borders to refugees.  Destination countries who have stated they will accept large numbers of refugees are experiencing strong opposition to this policy, and demonstrations against the refugees.

Over the last three plus months Canada has accepted approximately 25,000 Syrian immigrants. Almost all came from refugee camps in countries like Jordan.  Canadian immigration officers conducted “on the spot” screening.. Whole families were approved for landed immigrant status and flown to Canada.

Canadians have responded with concern and support. With time, these refugees will be integrated into Canada’s society, as the Vietnamese boat people before them.

We can expect that if global warming is not checked, there will be much larger migrations. The impact of climate change is anticipated to displace up to 250 million people worldwide by 2050, including many in low-lying Pacific islands such as Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

People may ask:  why should Canada be concerned?  We are far away from the Asian lands and Pacific islands that are at greatest risk from rising sea levels!

People will do anything to escape desperate living conditions.  There will be an armada of ships of uncertain age and safety that will carry climate refugees to our shores. (Remember the Sikhs who landed on the beaches of Nova Scotia, or the Tamils who reached British Columbia on the Ocean Lady and the M/V Sun Sea).

These climate refugees will land in large numbers that will swamp our ability to integrate them into Canadian society – which will then be battling our own climate change problems.

What can be done to avoid this disaster, which admittedly is many years in the future?  The world has a reasonable time in which to prepare. That will be the subject of our next blog.

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