The Next Generation Refugees
Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia are the highest refugee-producing countries in the world. The public has heard about their stories for so many years that it has become almost desensitised to this information. Although this is all happening on the other side of the planet, it is a fact. It is an extremely unpleasant side effect of war.
What most people are not aware of is that it is much more common for people to abandon their homes due to climate change rather than conflict. And the frequency of this phenomenon is about to increase. In 2021, the number of wildfires, droughts, weather phenomena was dramatic, and it continues to grow.
A refugee is defined as a person who has crossed an international border “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
Climate refugees do not fit this term. In fact, there is not a specific term to define them. Their reason for migrating and seeking asylum is not religion, nationality, or beliefs. It is climate change. The increasing temperatures due to greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the droughts that leave fields cropless, the melting glaciers that cause flooding, and the sea levels rising to name a few, place them in the exact same position as ‘real’ refugees. They have to flee to survive: physically, mentally, economically.
Climate change is a rapidly evolving issue. Economic growth, consumerism, and greed are increasing the need for energy and related economic activities. What should be happening—cutting down on fossil fuels and practices that extend environmental degradation—is a discarded afterthought and a mere promise for the future. The impact of the climate crisis is magnified every single day.
According to the New York Times, the living conditions of 800 million people could seriously diminish in the next few years. It is expected that 200 million people will need to migrate because of climate change by 2050. People that are employed by the crops of their land will be doomed in the face of an intense heat wave. Others will have to abandon their homes because they will be destroyed by fire, water, or wind. Whole islands and chunks of land will disappear underwater. It looks like the natural elements are fighting back against our damaging activities.
In 2017, 60% of the people displaced in the world had to flee their homes because of a natural disaster. South Africa, Northwest Africa, and Central America are some of the areas that have already faced the phenomenon in a scarring manner.