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Environmental Refugees of the 21st Century:

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Presentation on theme: "Environmental Refugees of the 21st Century:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Environmental Refugees: Problematic Legal Status, Moral Responsibility, and Citizen Action
Environmental Refugees of the 21st Century: Citizens from low lying islands in contrast with other affected regions

2 Legal Status The UNHCR currently has no legal definition of an Environmental or Climate “Refugee”1 Current Definition: Refugees are a group of people who are fleeing their homeland either within or outside of their national borders due to persecution based on their membership in that group (Ethnic, Political, Religious etc.)

3 Why the urgency of addressing the legal status?
Climate Change Models: from gradual to exponential - an Ice Free Arctic? Loss of Sea Ice in the Arctic between 2005 and 2007 was equal in size to the States of California and Texas.2 Heating “feedback loop” in the Arctic due to “encroachment” Changing attitudes among Islanders about relocation

4 Methane Plumes Methane Plumes are speeding up the rate at which they are surfacing from the North Atlantic Seabed due to rising temperatures on the sea floor. 3

5 “Nothing to see here.” Declassified satellite photos from July and July 2007 shows the exponential decrease in sea ice4. New vocabulary words for indigenous people in the Arctic circle : 'Sleet' and 'Thunder'

6 The Greenland Melt Factor
Moulins are new phenomena on Greenland, which are melting large holes in the ice and lubricating the underside of enormous land based ice sheets.

7 Land Based Ice Sheets and Water Displacement
Moulin Ice Melt: Ice Quakes – tectonic and Volcanic activity5 Ice Melt on Land was not considered to happen so suddenly Revised sea level rise from ½ meter up to 3 to 5 meters by 2100.

8 3 to 5 meters by 2100 Malé - capitol of Maldives – Population of 85,000 sits less than 3 meters (9 feet) above sea level Entire Maldives chain has 300,000 people

9 Fiji Islands 322 islands across the South Pacific
Projected to surpass 1 million in population by Many islands are a few feet above sea level, however, the main island does have an elevation of 1,324 meters.

10 Tuvalu 1 meter (3 feet) above sea level
Population: 12,000 people on four reef islands and five atolls

11 “When 6 became 7” Huene Island of the Carterets was bisected by rising waters in the past few years. In addition to land loss, there is salt water leeching, crop loss and increased disease

12 Salt water leeched land
In addition to ruined well water and losses of crops, salt water leeched land collects stagnant water, increasing mosquitoes and causes malaria rates to skyrocket

13 Montserrat: a case study
In the 1990's the Island of Montserrat in the Caribbean underwent a series of Volcanic eruptions from a long dormant Volcano in the Soufriere Hills, burying the capitol of Plymouth under ash. The UK and United States allowed temporary visas for residents to leave their country as a humanitarian relief effort under terms of “non-refoulement”, but with no legal immigration status. Due to ongoing eruptions that were no longer temporary, the United States issued a statement that since the situation was no longer a “temporary” disruption but rather “ongoing” that the Islanders in the United States could no longer stay on their temporary visas. Many in the UK, simply refused to leave the country and are officially overstaying their temporary visas.6

14 New Zealand's Clarification
This past year in 2009, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a clarification for their Pacific Access Corridor (PAC) immigration visas for citizens of Tuvalu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati stating quote: “Stories circulated in the media stating that New Zealand has an agreement with Tuvalu to accept people displaced by rising sea levels due to climate change are incorrect New Zealand does not have an explicit policy to accept people from Pacific island countries due to climate change.”7

15 Refugee or 'Migrant'? Industrialized countries involved in Climate Change legislation currently classify Islanders and other persons leaving their homeland due to Climate Change as “migrants” meaning they are willingly leaving their country of origin.8 A “Refugee” status would have to acknowledge persecution and would grant additional rights for immigration. What or who is causing Sea Level rise?

16 Industrial pushback on Climate Change Legislation
Coal Industry D.C. Lobbyists – Bonner and Associates sent forged letters pretending to be a non-profit Hispanic advocacy group to protest the Waxman- Markey Climate Change bill.9 The American Petroleum Institute has been discovered to have been organizing 'citizen protests' to upcoming Senate Climate Change Bills.10

17 Why Industry is concerned:
Environmental causes have been traditionally focused on personal choices, such as consumer purchases, recycling, etc. The cause of the Environmental Refugees could have a profound impact on the way citizens of Industrialized Countries view Energy policy Lobbying to keep the status of Environmental Refugees as “migrants”?

18 The Problem with US Senate Representation
On Climate Change Legislation: "There's nothing good about it," said U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. "I'm going to do everything to make sure it doesn't pass." U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the bill is "the biggest hidden tax in America. It's a Ponzi scheme because we're just going to print certificates for CO2 and not take care of any CO2," Enzi said. "It's just another way to make money." Enzi, it should be noted, is the largest recepient of Industry PAC money since “A voter in Wyoming -- population 533, has about 70 times more ability to influence the Senate's direction than one in California -- population 36.8 million.”12

19 Economic Liability If Sea Level Rise is due to Industry, and not due to 'cyclical weather patterns' then Industry is at fault? If the UNHCR grants status to Environmental Refugees then those countries that subsidize or fund Industrial practices contributing to Climate Change are state sponsors of persecution?

20 Ecuador: a Case Study in Media Bias
Pablo Fajardo and indigenous Amazonians vs. Chevron CNN's Orwellianism Ongoing Tactics of Chevron13 Is the Sky Red or Blue? The problem with 'objective' reporting by US media.

21 Psychologists delve into paradox of citizen concern with citizen inaction
Up to 3 quarters of those Americans surveyed are 'concerned' but only 8% have gotten active on the issue “to the extent people can’t solve a problem, they tend to ignore that problem." People who are concerned have an emotional response of feeling overwhelmed, scared, and helpless by the largeness of Climate Change Framing by traditional Media causes confusion on this subject. Focusing on adaptation are key to motivating action 14

22 Climate Scientists fighting back
“temperatures were indeed warmer in this region 1,000 years ago than they were 100 years ago - but not as warm as they are now, or 1,000 years previously”15

23 A focus on Adaptation and hope
Changing our course for energy is the first step No idea should be discounted for addressing Climate Change Embracing Environmental Refugees as fellow citizens

24 Lessons Learned from Past History
Past moral failings of the United States such as the Slave Trade and Native American Genocide and European colonialism are teachable moments Social movements such as the Civil Rights movement are platforms for which to base action Framing: Saving Profits vs. Saving lives

25 How to get Citizens Actively Mobilized
Holding Politicians accountable -new media Appealing to Moral leadership on Climate Change – Changing 'otherness' and 'dominion' themes – This is an issue of Race, Class, and Neo-colonialism Connecting with Islander's who are fundraising for themselves, such 'Tulele Peisa' or 'Sailing the Waves on our own'16 Focusing on Political leaders from the Islands who are speaking out on this issue

26 Political Leadership Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives has been the most vocal leader on this issue stating “We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere,” (this is) “an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome.”17 UN Secretary General Ban – Ki Moon "Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action,"18

27 Projections for Environmental Refugees
The Army Corps of Engineers have estimated a cost of 95 million to relocate less than 1000 people on the Island of Kivalina, Alaska. Oxfam predicts million people displaced by 2050. Current UN figures on Refugees 10 million traditional refugees, 13 million refugees displaced within their own borders, 6 million refugees who were considered 'stateless' 1 million 'people of concern' A cost of 86 billion just through

28 Rethinking Legal approaches
Chevron stopped oil production in Ecuador in 1995 – their lawsuit is likely to be dragged on for a decade in appeals. The Exxon Valdez's final lawsuit settlement of 500 million reduced from the original verdict of 2.5 billion, was just settled by the Supreme Court in 2008, years after the accident.19 Islanders can not afford to wait 19 years or even a decade for the legal system to render justice. The UNCHR must decide on the Refugee status at the Copenhagen summit

29 Government policies Countries must begin to work together to scientifically determine methods of adaptation for the coming changes that will occur due to Climate Change Environmental Refugees must be placed in the “front of the line” for immigration policies and be given resources to resettle their cultures. The Industrialized nations must no longer subsidize any fossil fuel industry or they would be State Sponsors of Persecution and Environmental Genocide Governments should instead subsidize Clean Energy sources, such as Solar, Wind, and Geothermal.

30 The Fallacy of a 'Free Market' Energy Sector
Ron Lehr of AWEA “We don't have a free market in the energy sector. There is no aspect in energy that is near a free market. We subsidize the oil, coal and gas industry through our tax dollars. They must think we are stupid in Washington. We've got permanent subsidies for the things we don't want, and inconsistent subsidies for the things we do want.”21

31 Changing our economic models
The UN in accord with all of the Countries of the world must agree to remove Natural Resources such as Land, Water, Agricultural crops, and Trees from the 'Free Market' system of economy The current economic model encourages depletion of resources both by companies and individuals

32 Governments must decide on a global response to this problem
The funding for relocation is likely to cost more than current economies can afford with the current world economic situation How do we pay for this? What are the long term issues with relocation? Who is legally and morally responsible for displaced Environmental Refugees?

33 Citations 1.McAdam, Jane, “Climate Change, Migration and Environmental Refugees” presentation courtesy of the University of New South Wales, May 23, ( 2.Amos, Jonathan, “Arctic Summers “ice free by 2013”, BBC News Science and Environment,December 12, ( stm) 3.Fishoutofwater, “Arctic Ocean Methane Plumes – Huge Carbon Traps Melting” Daily Kos, August 19, ( 4.Goldenberg, Susan and Carrington, Damian “Revealed: the secret evidence of Global Warming that Bush tried to hide”, The Guardian UK,July 26, 2009. 5. Bueckert, Dennis “Climate Change Could Cause Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions”, Canadian Press, July 4, ( .... 6. McAdam, Jane, “Climate Change, Migration and Environmental Refugees” presentation courtesy of the University of New South Wales, May 23, ( 7 “New Zealand's immigration relationship with Tuvalu” Statement from New Zealand Ministry of Foreign affairs and Trade, July 2009. 8.Friedman, Lisa, “Migrant or Refugee – What's in a name?” Climate Wire, March 23, 2009. 9 Roth, Zachary, "Sensitive Oil Industry Memo Lays Out Plan For Astroturf Rallies Against Climate Change Bill” Talking Points Memo, August 14, 2009. 10 Roth, Zachary,”Lobby Firm Sent Forged Climate Change Letter To Congressman”,Talking Points Memo, July 31, 2009. 11 McCarter, Joan, “The Problem of the Small State Senator” Daily Kos, August 23, (

34 Citations 12 Silver, Nate “The Real Problem of the Senate's Small State Bias” Five Thirty Eight,August 3, ( 13 Hinton, Karen and Anderson, Mitch “Chevron Accused of Nixon-style Dirty Tricks Operation In Ecuador” Amazon Watch, September 1, 2009. 14 Cho, Renee “Psychologists Delve Into the Paradox of U.S. Concern but Inaction on Climate Change” SolveClimate, August 23rd, 2009. 15 Black, Richard “Arctic 'Warmest in 2000 years' BBC Science and Environment, September 3, 2009 16 Lateau, Jo “That Sinking Feeling”, The New Internationalist, March 2008, issue 409. 17 Horne, Sarah, “Fragile Beauty”, Hemisphere, (a United Airline Publication) ( .. 18 Black, Richard “Arctic 'Warmest in 2000 years' BBC Science and Environment, September 3, 2009. 19 Sasoon, David “ At 13 Feet Above Sea Level, Tuvalu Issues a Cry for Help”, Solve Climate: February 12, 2008. 20 Totenberg, Nina “Supreme Court Weighs Exxon Valdez Damages”NPR, February 27, 2008. 21 Lehr, Ron “A Renewable Energy 'blogumentary': Part 3 of 6:Federal/National energy initiatives” Daily Kos, June 23,

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