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Climate Refugees

Submitted by on August 25, 2011 – 11:07 am One Comment

Climate Refugees, written and directed by Michael P Nash, explores international policy regarding the current and future victims of climate change. The film examines several global locations that are already being affected by climate change and are the most susceptible to future destruction. Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the Tuvalu Islands in the south pacific, featured in the film, are three nations that will become partially if not entirely submerged by seawater as sea levels continue to rise. The film asks the question where will these peoples go when their nations disappear, reminding us that under UN law there is no such thing as a climate refugee. Refugees must be the victims of persecution in some form of political, religious, or ethnic abuse.

The frequency of natural disasters has roughly doubled since 1980,  clearly indicative of the reality of climate change and its consequences. The Tuvalu Islands are quickly disappearing; according to natives the islands are slowly but noticeably shrinking. Indonesia, whose eventual disappearance is far less imminent than the Tuvalu Islands, is home to over 235 million people. If Indonesia should become uninhabitable almost a quarter of a billion people may need to seek refuge elsewhere. Unfortunately as of now any country can refuse the victims of natural destruction, or climate refugees. In his film, Nash lobbies to change this international refugee policy to include victims of climate change and natural disasters.

The film examines those who will suffer in the opposite vain of climate change as well. Many places on earth, especially in Africa, will lose significant portions of their arable land to desert and drought as a result of global warming. People in these regions will be forced to move elsewhere just as those who are the victims of flooding will be. As climate change destroys livable and cultivatable land it leaves a much smaller world to accommodate the millions of displaced peoples and to produce enough food to meet increased global demand. The United States may end up paying their debt back to China in food or land as the demand and value of both will only exponentially grow with climate change and population growth.

Michael Nash relies on the testimony of several leading politicians including Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, John Kerry, Newt Gingrich, and even President Obama, as well as leading scientists to call on the audiences of Climate Refugees to help change the course the world is currently on. It becomes clear by the end of the film that the world faces serious consequences for idly hoping that climate change and global warming will have no affect on the future but it also becomes clear that much can be done to alter this course. Nash emphasizes the need for politicians to fund research and development in alternative energy.  He also advocates that everyday people individually consider their actions and try to live a greener life one step at a time. One interviewee points out that modern day people would be shocked at anyone using a computer or cell phone from ten years ago, yet the world has not updated its method of harnessing energy to power automobiles in almost 100 years.

The general message of any film, book, article, etc… discussing climate change tends to be the same: climate change is bad and the world must act now to avoid future disastrous consequences.  Climate Refugees is no different in its message except that it additionally calls for changes in international legislation that would allow the victims of natural disasters and climate change to receive refugee status. Overall the film tells the audience to do whatever they can in the fight against climate change whether it is to become politically active, go green, inform others, buy a Prius, or simply invent a new way to harness energy. However simple this seems it is of the utmost importance that everyone actively participate in making a difference and in working towards a better future; in the case of climate change ignorance is not bliss.   Julian Dufault - TribalTruth contributor.

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One Comment »

  • J. Doherty says:

    So if an island nation is submerged beneath the ocean, does it maintain its membership in the United Nations? Who is responsible for the citizens? Do they travel on its passport? Who claims and enforces offshore mineral and fishing rights in waters around a submerged nation? International law currently has no answers to such questions.
    United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.
    “Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.
    Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.
    t present, however, there appear to be at least three possibilities that could advance the international debate about ‘climate refugee’ protections and fill existing gaps in international law.
    The first option is to revise the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to include climate (or environmental) refugees and to offer legal protections similar to those for refugees fleeing political persecution. A second, more ambitious option is to negotiate a completely new convention, one that would try to guarantee specific rights and protections to climate or environmental ‘refugees