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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

Preventing a refugee crisis

Updated: May 28, 2020

Global warming may result in detrimental effects on food supply and security, especially in developing countries. Even if developing countries adapt to climate change, they will not be able to avoid the problems associated with climate change entirely. Furthermore, these adverse outcomes of climate change in developing countries and potentially positive outcomes in developed countries will probably increase the gap in wealth, access to food, and health between rich and developing countries (Sacks & Rosenzweig, 2007).

Refugee populations remain one of the most complex migrant categories, as they are readily associated with extreme situations of war, civil strife, persecution, and the search for security (Toole & Waldman, 1997). In the case of atoll populations, a ‘war against climate change’ has been declared, and physical/mental security is sought in response to conditions they did not request.

A 1995 article on climate change and migration from Oceania, stated significant environmental changes could stimulate population movement and, in worst-case scenarios, inflict health and psychological consequences for environmentally-induced migrant populations (Moore & Smith). In Kiribati, it has expedited the growth of population displacement and natural resource depletion.

While the world has debated climate change’s existence, I-Kiribati have lived through its very real consequences for decades. Many see themselves as the first victims of a pending global catastrophe and realize that their survival depends on public interest, opinion, and behavior, which has little to no interest in their plight. This reality forces I-Kiribati to adapt and search for transnational migration opportunities.

With no relocation programs for environmentally displaced populations, some seek limited opportunities to study and work abroad. However, if Kiribati’s conditions become further unfit for human habitation, higher numbers may seek refuge elsewhere. These questions remain.

How will larger nations help?

Will immigration become the only adaptation strategy?

How will human rights violations be addressed and by whom?

As more nations are impacted, will the global community respond?

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