Climate, Refugees and Bangladesh - Prof. Afsan Chowdhury
Greenhouse gas emissions that leads to climate change increased by a record amount last year making it the highest carbon output year in history. It means the chances of reaching safe levels of emission is all but impossible according to the International Energy Agency.
Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the influential Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006, warned that if the pattern continued, the results would be dire. "Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce."
Yet it does seem that the world is neither interested nor able to tackle this crisis. In fact, apart from environmentalists issuing dire warnings and activists screaming loudly, not much is being happening. It is happening in both the developed and the developing world as rich countries spew GGs and the emerging giants like China and India race to catch up.
For Bangladesh and its people particularly those living abroad, there is no option other than advocating for better policies by drawing attention to the situation Bangladeshis will inevitably face. Of the many problems that the poorer part of the world will have, forced migration is one. Refugees may be generated in millions as livelihood and habitat loss enhances. Bangladesh will be very severely affected and that’s why it may produce many refugees. It would be useful to know some of the conditions and impulses that is pushing the world inevitably towards forced migration that can spark high refugee crisis as well. I am presenting a basic introduction to the crisis which can be used as a presentation tool as well for advocacy meeting if needed.
* Climate change, forced migration and refugees
- Climate change is affecting many countries but Asia and Africa are worst hit where most poor live. Coping capacity of these people are already stressed so the CC impact enhances existing vulnerabilities.
- Forced or willing, migration has always been a tool for survival for the vulnerable. People rarely migrate by choice and environmental crisis major generator of forced migration. Climate change is a migration crisis because of its scale and also the loss of sanctuary in host countries.
- In Asia and Africa, where migration is an acceptable tool to escape disasters, real or man made, most countries where people escape to will lose capacity to host refugees making even escape near impossible.
Most countries send and receive refugees. For example Bangladesh, a major sender also hosted Myanmar refugees.
India is also vulnerable to climate change crisis so its capacity to host refugees fro example from Bangladesh is dramatically reduced.
Loss of safety creates extreme situations that enhances vulnerability and creates security and conflict issues that have long term affects.
Causes of forced migration due to climate change
Climate change leads to loss of livelihood due to weather change which hits agriculture as soil dries up
Loss of cropland due to salinity, dry soil, rising sea levels, and loss of water feeding systems
Loss of sustainable agro methods including seeds, irrigation channels, healthy farmers, state intervention capacities, loss of markets etc
Loss of health, increased cost of staying alive, new diseases, new human and plant epidemics etc
Where is the refugee crisis and what can be done?
Climate change will adversely affect the world but the global South much more where the refugees will be most but capacity to manage them the least
Countries will try protecting themselves by locking borders such as in the Indo-Bangla border.
New threats and vulnerabilities will be created within each country. For example, if India stops Bangladeshis from crossing as it will, it might become a ethnic/communal question. Majority in Bangladesh may act against India’s majority ethnics living in Bangladesh as minorities. Similarly, India’s majority may attack its minorities in reaction creating new violence and new refugees.
No global policy yet as it’s still not a global priority. Potential forced migration due to climate change may have longer impact on global security than jihadists will happen
Unfortunately, we don’t know what is going to happen but let’s keep doing what we can wherever we are.
* This is taken from a presentation on climate change and forced migration delivered as part of the 2011 summer course on migration and refugees organized by the Centre on Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto.423