Globally, soaring amounts of greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change and resulting in rising sea levels and more frequent and severe extreme weather events.
We’ve seen the cost of extreme weather and natural disasters here in the United States. California, for example, is continuously plagued by forest fires and droughts. Florida cities spend millions in desperate attempts to prevent and respond to flooding. And in 2005, more than 400,000 New Orleans residents were displaced from their homes due to Hurricane Katrina – the most costly hurricane in America’s history.
The effects of climate change pay no respect to national borders or laws; they impact individuals in developed and developing countries. In fact, the United Nations reports that climate change currently impacts every country on every continent. One growing, and often overlooked, effect of climate change is the link to displacement of millions of men, women, and children due to climate or weather-related events.
Below are three facts you should know about climate change and displacement:
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) notes that since 2009, nearly one person every second has been displaced by a disaster, including climate and weather-related events. The most recent estimates from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre find that an average of 26.4 million people per year have been uprooted due to disasters brought on by natural hazards. These statistics reflect real-life tragedies, in which families and individuals are forced to flee their homes in response to unpredictable natural disasters that made their communities unstable and unsafe.
- Displacement linked to climate change will only get worse if we don’t act now. Scientists are in high agreement that climate change, combined with other factors, will force more people into increasing poverty and displacement. The UN refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” meaning it exacerbates the issues that create conflict, making complicated situations even more challenging to resolve.
- The Paris Agreement, a historic accord that unites all nations in an effort to combat climate change, is a collective step forward in addressing displacement related to climate and weather-related events. The Agreement’s Preamble acknowledges that climate change is a “common concern of humankind.” Further, it establishes a task force charged with developing recommendations for global approaches to “avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.”
There is much more to be done to help people displaced by climate change, but the Paris Agreement provides a foundation for future progress in addressing this challenge. And accomplishing this vital accord requires the support of all signatories. Unfortunately, the U.S.’s participation in this historic agreement is under threat, as the new Administration continues to debate whether to withdraw.
Please urge U.S. leaders to stay in and support the Paris Agreement by signing this petition. We need your help in protecting the millions of lives at risk because of climate change.
[Photo: © UNHCR/Saiful Huq Omi]