After raising hope, Biden still lacks climate migration plan

Of note (not sure any country does):

Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden issued what was widely hailed as a landmark executive order calling for the U.S. government to study and plan for the impact of climate change on migration. And less than a year later, his administration released the first U.S. government assessment of the vast rippling effects of a warming Earth on international security and displacement of people.

Advocates praised both moves as bold steps toward the world finally recognizing the need to offer refuge to people fleeing not just wars and persecution but also climate calamities such as drought and rising seas.

Since then, however, the Biden administration has done little more than study the idea, advocates say.

The government has been slow to implement recommendations made a year ago by its own agencies, including the National Security Council, on how to address climate migration.

Key to progress on the issue was creation of an interagency working group to coordinate government response to both domestic and international climate migration.

But the group, which was supposed to oversee policies, strategies and budgets to help climate-displaced people, still has not been established, according to a person with knowledge of the administration’s efforts who was not authorized to speak publicly. The person said the group is expected to hold its first meeting later this fall. The administration declined to identify which agencies will participate in the working group.

Meanwhile, Biden’s report to Congress about his plans for refugee admissions to the U.S. in the 2023 budget year made scant mention of climate change.

Advocates once energized by the administration’s promises to embrace climate-displaced people say they have grown disillusioned.

“It’s been really disappointing,” said Ama Francis, climate migration expert at the International Refugee Assistance Project, a New York-based advocacy group. “We want to see real action. There are needs right now. But all we see is the administration move more slowly and staying in an exploratory phase, rather than doing something.”

That’s despite the government’s reports by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, National Security Council and Director of National Intelligence that highlighted “the urgency of expanding current protections and creating new legal pathways to safety for climate-displaced people,” Francis pointed out.

Each year, natural disasters force an average of 21.5 million people from their homes around the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And scientists predict migration will grow as the planet gets hotter. Over the next 30 years, 143 million people are likely to be uprooted by rising seas, drought, searing temperatures and other climate catastrophes, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported this year.

National security officials also recommended increasing U.S. aid to countries regularly pummeled by extreme weather and strengthening support for U.S. climate scientists and others to track these events.

To that end, the government recently released plans to work with Congress to provide billions of dollars annually to help countries adapt and manage impacts of climate change, especially to those vulnerable to the worst effects.

At the U.S.-Pacific Islands Summit, Biden announced $22 million in funding for climate forecasting and research, and setting up early warning systems in places like Africa, where 60% of nations lack such systems. The administration said it plans to announce more such funding to close that gap at the global COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November.

Environmental disasters now displace more people than conflict within their own countries, though no nation in the world offers asylum to climate migrants.

The White House’s 37-page Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration was the first time the U.S. government outlined the inextricable links between climate change and migration.

Released in October 2021 as Biden headed to the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the report recommended steps, such as monitoring the flows of people forced to leave their homes because of natural disasters and working with Congress on a groundbreaking plan that would add droughts, floods, wildfires and other climate-related reasons in considering refugee status.

The report came a year after the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees published legal guidance that opened the door for offering protection to people displaced by the effects of global warming.

The guidance said climate change should be taken into consideration in certain scenarios when it intersects with violence, though the document stopped short of redefining the 1951 Refugee Convention, which provides legal protection only to people fleeing persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group.

The U.N. refugee agency acknowledged that temporary protection may be insufficient if a country becomes uninhabitable because of drought or rising seas, and suggested certain climate-displaced people could be eligible for resettlement.

Last month, more than a dozen humanitarian organizations sent a letter to the White House urging the government to give priority to refugee populations currently affected by climate change. The people include: South Sudanese and Ethiopians in Sudan where recurring drought and floods exacerbated by climate change threaten refugee camps. And Rohingya in Bangladesh where refugee camps are also at risk due to flooding.

But the Biden administration has not responded to the request, the organizations said.

“It was a positive step that the administration recognized that they should work on this issue, which is a first, so now they should make good on … that promise,” said Kayly Ober of Refugees International.

Migration is part of humanity’s adaptation to climate change and will become one of many tools for survival, so governments need now to plan accordingly, advocates say.

Humanitarian organizations provided the administration with reports on how to train immigration officers to do a better job at taking climate change into account when interviewing people for asylum or refugee status. They also offered analysis of possible legal pathways, such as expanding temporary protective status and humanitarian parole, which have allowed people fleeing natural disasters and conflicts in a limited list of countries to live and work in the United States for a few years.

The U.S. should establish a resettlement category for migrants who do not meet the refugee definition but who are unable to return safely to their homelands due to environmental risks, according to experts.

Worsening weather conditions are exacerbating poverty, crime and political instability, fueling tensions over dwindling resources from Africa to Latin America. But often climate change is overlooked as a contributing factor for people fleeing their homelands. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 90% of refugees under its mandate are from countries “on the front lines of the climate emergency.”

But so far there has been slow progress in the U.S. adopting policies recognizing them.

“Where we have some movement unfortunately is only in the uptick of people forcibly displaced in the world,” said Amali Tower, founder of the advocacy group Climate Refugees.

Source: After raising hope, Biden still lacks climate migration plan

Climate Change Is Not a Reason to Give China a Pass on Human Rights


In a widely-publicized July 8 letter, four dozen American advocacy groups—including the Sunrise Movement and the Union of Concerned Scientists—demanded that President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats reverse their “antagonistic posture” in favor of a more cooperative relationship with Beijing to “combat the climate crisis.” The signatories also attempted to frame the current administration’s China approach as a surrender to pressure on the right that’s counterproductive to global governance as well as responsible for xenophobia against individuals of East and Southeast Asian descent, and therefore “doing nothing to actually support the wellbeing of everyday people in either China or the United States.”

Alas, they seem oblivious to realities on the ground for those of us who live in the shadow of Chinese Communist Party hegemony. It’s not “progressive” to ignore a regime that opposesmulticulturalism, weakens  trade unions, regulates women’s choices through centralized population control, persecutes the LGBTQ+ community, militarizes international waters, and incarcerates ethnic minorities in concentration camps. Without shared values, solidarity is impossible.

Make no mistake: climate change is indeed an urgent, existential danger. Amid the record-breaking heatwave sweeping across the Pacific Northwest and floods that pummeled cities on the East Coast, China, too, is hit with extreme weather patterns, even as the government is more than happy to downplay that. A proposed “shift from competition to cooperation” at the state level would convey legitimacy and moral equivalence for Beijing. While the letter was correct to note that “climate change has no nationalistic solutions,” doesn’t appeasement of geopolitical expansion and well-documented atrocities precisely privilege the interests of nations over peoples?

Recent White House occupants, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, all embraced China’s rise, often at the expense of genuine human-rights concerns there. The abandonment of Maoism in the late 1970s produced only materialism and inequality, not (as many pundits predicted) any other form of liberalization.  Serious champions of climate justice, rather than misdirect their anger at the long-overdue bipartisan unity against Chinese crimes against humanity, should offer realistic means for Beijing to change its atrocious behavior first.

This isn’t a matter of prioritizing human rights over climate change. Practically nothing in their record suggests that Chinese leaders have any intention of honoring their end of the bargain in binding, bilateral agreements. Look no further than the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and 1987 Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration on Macau, each of which promised these territories 50 years of political autonomy. Unfolding now in both, however, is the systematic dismantling of every pillar of free society, from press freedom and due process topeaceful protests and open elections. No wonder Human Rights Watch’s latest reportcharacterized this as “the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre.”

The moral grandstanding behind opposing a so-called new Cold War—as if current tensions were solely the result of U.S. actions—fails to acknowledge that Beijing is capable of perpetuating imperialism in its own right. One case in point is the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive program of investments and infrastructure projects abroad. Designed to overcome China’s own overproduction dilemma at a time of stagnating wages and inadequate domestic demand, it targets developing countries in the region with extraterritorial legal arrangements, debt-trap diplomacy, and, unsurprisingly, environmental exploitation.

We need to deal with China as it is, not as we wish it to be. Climate solutions should be based on transnational partnership, democratic engagement, and adherence to a rules-based world.
Beijing, to this day, refuses to own up to its mistakes in the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention its longstanding intellectual-property thievery and forced technology transfer. It’s also keen to export authoritarianism: threatening to invade Taiwan, supporting North Korea’s dictatorship, and shielding the coup d’état in Burma from condemnation.

To imagine this thuggish actor on the international stage—whose state-run media indulges in mocking Greta Thunberg—is somehow innocently waiting to advance a climate agenda (if only other countries would be nicer to it) is naive. Last year, it built more than triple the amount of new coal power capacity as the rest of the world combined and funded $474 million worth of coal-sector projects abroad. Thanks to its polluted megacities, it’s the single largest carbon-dioxide emitter that continues to increase at a higher rate despite already doubling that of the United States. Neither can we gloss over the solar panels made in Xinjiang using cheap coal-generated electricity and unfree Uyghur labor.

At the end of the day, granting Beijing blanket concessions and expecting positive outcomes constitute little more than wishful thinking. “We’re in a contest, not with China per se,” as Biden put it at the G-7 summit in England last month, “but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world.” Should Americans wish to lead, they must be willing to listen. The voices of the oppressed ought to matter more than any superpower; creating a more humane, habitable world begins with respecting everyone’s basic dignity.

Source: Climate Change Is Not a Reason to Give China a Pass on Human Rights

Saunders: Climate migration isn’t a thing – but maybe we should make it one

Good commentary by Saunders on the reality:

The world is likely to suffer a lot of destruction, disruption, economic and political instability and death as a result of rising global temperatures and ocean levels, even if we’re able to keep atmospheric warming to 2 degrees.

One thing we’re not going to encounter, however, is mass immigration across international borders. “Climate migration,” scholars of the subject tend to agree, is not something that will happen internationally on any significant scale, even under the worst imaginable projections. “Climate refugees” are not a plausible future problem for any developed country.

You may have been led to believe otherwise. A startling range of international organizations and publications have issued reports and alarmist stories based on the assumption that the millions of people whose lands will be hurt by climate change are going to respond by fleeing to another country.

United Nations agencies have embarrassed themselves by predicting climate migrations that never materialize. One charity predicts that a billion people will be displaced by 2050; a news report last year amplified that assumption to 1.5 billion. In July, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story that observed (correctly) that “billions of people” will have their livelihoods hurt by global warming, and then inferred that most of them will become migrants.

The renowned Dutch migration scholar Hein de Haas warned recently that these studies and forecasts lack any credibility because they “are not based on fact and scientific knowledge. They either have no scientific basis at all, or reflect extremely simplistic quasi-scientific reasoning.”

In fact, the scholarly community has come together to warn, with increasing urgency, that the notion of “climate migration” is false and dangerous.

Last November, 31 of the world’s most respected climate scholars published a paper in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change warning against “misleading claims about mass migration induced by climate change” which, they said, continue to circulate in both academia and policy circles without any scientific foundation. Although climate change will indeed threaten lives, they agreed, the notion that a warming climate and rising ocean levels will produce “climate refugees” is a “false narrative” driven by political motives.

Dr. de Haas outlined those motives: “For left-wing groups, it serves to raise attention to the issue of climate change… For right-wing groups, it serves to raise the spectre of future mass migration, and the need to step up border controls.”

Earlier this year, the world’s leading migration scholars published the sixth edition of the standard textbook on the subject, The Age of Migration. Though their work is otherwise deeply concerned about both refugees and climate change, they included a new chapter on “climate migration,” which warns that the concept contradicts everything that actually is known about human responses to climate shocks and disasters.

In the world of actual knowledge, the last 10 years have seen an unprecedented amount of serious, well-funded study into the question of what families and communities in climate-devastated places are going to do when their livelihoods turn into ocean or desert. While the answers are varied and often disturbing, one thing people almost never do under such circumstances is move far away.

The definitive work on climate migration remains the Foresight Report, commissioned in 2011 by Britain’s Government Office for Science, which commissioned more than 80 studies in multiple disciplines. It found that climate will sometimes have an impact on local migration. But that impact is quite likely to be negative – that is, climate change will often prevent people from migrating. Not only that, but it found that when regions suffer climate devastation, people are equally likely to migrate into those regions.

In 2018, the Migration Policy Institute conducted a comprehensive review of all the research evidence on climate and migration. It found that climate shocks are highly likely to reduce a community’s likelihood of moving (by hurting their ability to afford to migrate); when they do use migration as a survival strategy, it’s almost always within the local region.

None of that should have been a surprise. The one thing we’ve long known about immigrants and refugees is that they’re products not of ruin and absolute poverty but of comparative prosperity – and thus ability to move – within their communities.

There will be a lot of human migration during the coming decades – most of it regional or internal – and the small number moving to faraway cities because of climate devastation will be greatly outnumbered by those making exactly the same journey simply in order to have a better life.

The fact is that people who live in highly climate-vulnerable regions, where incomes tend to be low anyway, really ought to be migrating – and countries such as Canada could use them. Rather than spreading false alarm about desperate hordes headed for our borders, we ought to be thinking of ways to encourage and make possible climate migration. The world would be better off if it really was a thing.

Coyne: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Unfortunately, applies to many areas of public policy and debate, where the challenge for any serious government is to seek a balance between different or competing objectives:

Justin Trudeau came to power promising reconciliation, resource development and carbon pricing. On present form, he may leave having achieved none of the three.

The past few days alone have seen deepening national divisions over the paralysis of the country’s rail system by protesters acting, so they claim, in the name of Indigenous rights; the cancellation of Teck Resources’ Frontier oil-sands mine proposal, the latest in a string of major energy projects to be killed, withdrawn or indefinitely delayed; and the rejection of the federal carbon tax by the Alberta Court of Appeal, signalling that the tax’s constitutional status, when it is finally determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, is anything but certain.

There is room to debate the Prime Minister’s particular responsibility for this state of affairs. Was he too quick to raise expectations among Indigenous people about the possibilities of reconciliation, too slow to deliver? Has his approach to environmental regulations been too heavy-handed in principle, too dilatory in practice? Was the whole strategy behind the carbon tax’s implementation, namely to dragoon the provinces into levying it on the feds’ behalf, too clever by half?

But for now it’s worth reviewing just where we have landed and how we got here. Whatever mistakes there were in execution, the basic idea – that reconciliation, development and carbon pricing, far from being mutually exclusive, could be achieved together – was sound enough.

Indigenous people, rather than being the helpless victims of development, could be partners in it, with appropriate mitigation of costs and sharing of benefits. Carbon pricing, instead of impeding resource extraction, could make it more possible, if not by purchasing social licence directly, then by encouraging the reductions in emissions intensity that would do so in the long run. In the decades to come, as the world moved away from fossil fuels, Canadian oil could continue to be extracted and sold as the last best barrel on Earth.

There was, in short, a balance to be struck between these objectives that could simultaneously meet the needs of Indigenous people, the energy sector and the planet. And there was a coalition to be assembled out of the more co-operative elements of each constituency – pro-development Indigenous leaders, socially responsible corporations, market-oriented environmentalists – on the basis that, though none would get all of what it wanted, all would get some of it.

Instead, the debate has been dominated by the most extreme, uncompromising, all-or-nothing voices. While an overwhelming majority of band councils have endorsed project after project, from the Trans Mountain expansion to the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the Frontier mine, a fanatical cult has grown up around the handful of Indigenous leaders in opposition to each.

While an array of business executives, not least within the oil patch, have endorsed carbon pricing as the cheapest and least-intrusive means of driving reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, conservative politicians have mounted their own barricades against it, while proposing vastly more expensive alternatives in its place.

While those with actual responsibility for governing have focused on encouraging more responsible development, including extensive consultation with affected Indigenous communities and the smallest possible carbon footprint, left-wing activists have demanded, with increasing absolutism, that no oil be drilled or pipelines be built anywhere.

So instead of everyone getting something, the growing probability is that no one will get anything. We seem not to care whether we get what we want, so long as we can prevent others from getting what they want.

As, of course, we can. There shouldn’t be any doubt that each side of this conflict can, should it feel thwarted in its ambitions, make it virtually impossible for the others to succeed in theirs. The problem is, so can they; everyone’s got a veto of one kind or another. Yet all seem to think that, while their position is impregnable, their opponents can be made to surrender. And it is this belief that, more than anything, has brought us to this pass.

People who think we can just send in the cops to dismantle all the barricades have not begun to think through how this could be enforced over thousands of miles of rail line.

People who think Canada’s territorial sovereignty can just be waved away, when the very courts on which they depend for enforcement of their rights have consistently ruled to the contrary, are blind to both legal and political reality. People who think we can just shut down the oil sands today have not remotely contended with the consequences, not only for the economy, but the federal union. People who think we can just do nothing about climate change make themselves permanent exiles from power.

But that, alas, is what too many people do think. Only when all sides dispense with the fantasy of total victory will there be a way out of this stalemate.

Source: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Does Canada have a ‘moral and legal obligation’ to allow climate migrants?

Good question that will run against the political and policy implications of admitting much larger numbers of refugees:

A landmark ruling by the United Nations that could pave the way for future climate migrants may force the Canadian government to rethink its conditions around refugees and asylum seekers.

On Jan. 20, the UN Human Rights Committee stated governments must now take into account the climate crisis when considering the deportation of asylum seekers.

Currently, there are no specific provisions for people seeking asylum on the grounds of climate change under Canadian immigration and refugee law.

The non-binding UN ruling involves Ioane Teitiota, from the Pacific nation of Kiribati, who brought a case against New Zealand in 2016 after authorities there denied his claim of asylum as a climate refugee.The UN committee upheld New Zealand’s decision to deport Teitiota, saying he did not face an immediate risk if returned. But it agreed that environmental degradation and climate change are some of the most pressing threats to the right to life.

Committee expert Yuval Shany said “this ruling sets forth new standards that could facilitate the success of future climate change-related asylum claims.”

Despite the committee’s optimism, Canadian legal experts are pessimistic, saying that accommodating climate migrants would require systematic changes in Canada.

Mitchell Goldberg, former president and co-founder of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said that if Canada wants to be able to “look itself in the mirror,” the government will need to take urgent policy and legislative action in order to account for the “very threatening new reality” of forced migration due to climate change.

Elizabeth May, the former Green Party leader, said the ruling provides the opportunity for Canada and the international community to redefine the meaning of refugee.

“We are going to have climate refugees, and we can’t refuse them based on the fact that there isn’t a political problem in their country,” May said. If migrants “simply can’t live” in their home country because “their homes are underwater” or “persistent drought,” she said it is incumbent on Canada to do something.

Canada’s ‘moral and legal obligation’

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 17.2 million people worldwide had to leave their homes in 2019 because of disasters exacerbated by climate change.

The Global Climate Risk Index, released last year, found that the poorest and least-developed countries, such as Honduras and Myanmar, are generally more adversely affected by climate change than industrialized countries.

In a 2018 report, Canada was identified as the worst of the G20 nations for per capita greenhouse-gas emissions. Combined, the G20 members are responsible for more than 80 per cent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, which are contributing to human-caused climate change.

“Every time the Canadian government provides subsidies to the gas sector, every time it builds another pipeline, we should be thinking of the impact it will have on millions of people around the world living in already precarious situations,” said Goldberg. As a result, “there is a very powerful moral and legal obligation, especially for Canada, to step up the plate to take responsibility for our actions and the impacts we have had on millions people around the world.”

Goldberg said that while the UN ruling was “very encouraging” and “long overdue,” many countries, like Canada, the U.S. and those in the EU, will try and ignore it.

It had been “notoriously hard” to update the UN’s refugee convention, given that the “rich countries of the world” have been against any expansion and have tried to limit its provisions, Goldberg said.

The recent UN ruling could also lead to legal challenges from people whose asylum status may have been previously denied because it did not meet Canadian definitions, he said.

IRCC monitoring climate displacement

In a statement to CBC News, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said the Canadian government actively monitors the implications of climate change on migration and displacement of people.

“Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our time… Developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, are the hardest hit,” IRCC spokesperson Shannon Ker said.

Canada remains “steadfast in offering protection to [UN] convention refugees,” and in the event of a natural disaster, decisions on refugee claims are taken on a case-by-case basis, she said.

“In the case of people displaced due to a sudden onset weather event or a natural disaster, IRCC has in the past expedited applications already in the system, and has also extended temporary resident visas for those already in Canada.”

However, IRCC did not state if the ruling would impact Canada’s definition around what constitutes an asylum seeker.

Chiara Liguori, policy adviser for Amnesty International, said governments’ tendency to resist redefining refugee definitions is due in part to how difficult it is to identify climate change as a specific reason for displacement.

“The reasons why people move are interlinked, and determining this objectively is hard,” Liguori said. “There is also an issue of political will.”

But she said that the climate crisis will trigger more “human rights impacts on the lives of people,” especially those living in developing countries.

“It is imperative that [nations] reduce emissions as fast as possible in order to keep an increase of global temperatures within 1.5 [Celsius],” Liguori said. “Otherwise, the impacts of climate change will represent serious human rights consequences.”

May said an increase in climate migrants to Canada could be beneficial to rural areas that have experienced depopulation, and could provide a much-needed economic boost.

“It’s not going to happen all at once, but is going to happen soon enough and governments — both federal and provincial — need to think about how we plan ahead and have adequate infrastructure to make this as positive as possible in unhappy circumstances.”

Source: Does Canada have a ‘moral and legal obligation’ to allow climate migrants?

Douglas Todd: Greens push to welcome ‘environmental refugees’ to Canada

Has been discussed for some time but with climate change accelerating, will likely see more pressures:

Amita Kettner’s mother was killed when a mudslide wiped out the family home in North Vancouver.

The Green party candidate for Burnaby North was 14 when the sudden burst of extreme weather struck in 2005, sweeping Eliza Wing Mun Kettner and her house down an embankment.

The tragic family history adds to why Kettner, along with the Green party of Canada, is impassioned about the party’s out-of-the-ordinary election promise to advocate for making “environmental refugee” a new immigration category in Canada.

“We, as a country, have a certain amount of prosperity and comfort, and we can prepare to have climate refugees. That is not something that everywhere else can do,” says Kettner, who recently obtained a PhD in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Clara.

Soon many regions of the globe are “likely to be on fire, or underwater or having crop failures,” said Kettner.

“We might not have to take refugees that come overland (entering Canada from the U.S.), but it’s possible we might see mass migration from the equatorial band. I think we should be ready to accept people from everywhere and anywhere.”

The Green party knows it faces an uphill battle on the issue, since the United Nations refugee agency, which currently defines refugees as people escaping war and persecution, has failed to come up with a definition of environmental refugee, citing legal and political complications.

Nevertheless, the party’s 2019 platform declares it intends to “lead a national discussion to define the term ‘environmental refugee,’ advocate for its inclusion as a refugee category in Canada, and accept an appropriate share of the world’s environmental refugees into Canada.”

With tens of thousands of Canadians joining climate-change protests on Friday and the environment ranking as leading election issue, projections about the potential scale of the climate crisis still vary. One widely cited study, from the United Nations University, suggests there will be 200 million environmental migrants by 2050.

Experts are also concerned that only the wealthy will have a chance to emigrate from the world’s increasingly hot spots, which could be devastated by water shortages, crop failure and extreme weather. This year, for instance, severe drought hit East Africa, unusual typhoons battered the Philippines, and crops withered in Honduras.


Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram says the Canadian Greens’  enthusiasm for broadening the refugee category “comes at an interesting time when, across the Western world, we have seen parties — on the left and right — express hesitation about their state’s capacity to take in refugees.”

Even people sympathetic to the plight of refugees are timid about reopening the definition used by the United Nations convention, Jeram said. They fear some nation-states will use it as an opportunity to withdraw from current commitments to take in people escaping war and persecution, of which there are more than 22 million.

Nevertheless, Sanjay pointed to New Zealand as a potential example for Canada to follow, since some of its politicians have been exploring how to make climate change a legitimate ground for an asylum claim.

Last year New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern planned to create a special visa for Pacific Islanders forced to relocate because of rising sea levels. She hoped her nation, as a precedent, could offer 100 visas each year. Ardern’s plan, however, has run into legal barriers.

Like many environmental specialists, Kuttner, who wouldn’t speculate about how many environmental refugees Canada might accept, is concerned that rich and educated people will be most likely to escape climate-change calamity in their regions, including through migration to countries like Canada, which are somewhat less vulnerable.

“There’s a definite sense that some people, if they have enough capital, will be able to hide themselves from climate disaster,” Kuttner said.

“It’s definitely true that the more money people have the easier it is to handle large climate changes. But even for the well-off it’s still a gamble.”


Andy Yan, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, says it’s possible some people around the world who can afford it are trying to find a haven from climate change by migrating to Metro Vancouver and other parts of North America.

“That would probably be a factor. It goes into the idea of Metro Vancouver as a ‘hedge city.’ It’s not only about looking to create financial and political stability, it’s increasingly about searching for climate stability.”

That said, Yan is among those warning Metro Vancouver and Canada will not be immune from climate-change problems. He cites a recent study by University of Victoria scientists projecting that Vancouver could be warmer than San Diego by 2050, causing nearby forest fires and water shortages.

While it’s important to have discussions about our humanitarian responsibilities to the world’s migrants, however defined, Yan said the value of facing up to the potential for a mass movement of environmental refugees is that it reminds us to first take decisive action against climate change itself.

“How about having government policies that prevent the situation to begin with?”

Source: Douglas Todd: Greens push to welcome ‘environmental refugees’ to Canada

Canadians in every riding support climate action, new research shows

Different take than national and provincial polling but interesting approach to riding-level analysis. Others better placed to comment on the methodology:

Canada is gearing up for a big election this fall and climate policy will likely be at the centre of debate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are trumpeting their carbon pricing policy, while Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives want to get rid of it. Meanwhile, Elizabeth May and her newly relevant Greens think Canada must do more to manage the climate crisis.

But where do Canadian voters stand on this issue?

Our research team, based at the Université de Montréal and the University of California Santa Barbara, has new public opinion data to answer this question. Using recent statistical and political science advances, we can estimate Canadian opinion in every single riding across the country (except for the less densely populated territories, where data collection is sparse). And we’ve released on online tool so anyone can see how their local riding compares to others across the country.

Canadians are concerned about climate change

Our results reinforce what is increasingly clear: climate change is on the minds of Canadians, and not just in urban or coastal communities. A majority of Canadians in every single riding believe the climate is changing. The highest beliefs are in Halifax, where 93 per cent of the public believe climate change is happening.

Percentage of Canadians, by riding, who believe climate change is happening. Author provided

And a majority of Canadians in all but three ridings think their province has already experienced the impacts of climate change. These beliefs are particularly high in Québec, where 79 per cent feel the impacts of climate change have already arrived.

Canadians also want to see the government take the climate threat seriously.

A majority of voters supports emissions trading. Carbon taxation is more divisive, yet more people support carbon taxation than don’t in 88 per cent of Canadian ridings.

And the handful of ridings that don’t support the Trudeau government’s carbon pricing policy — Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, for example — are already in Conservative hands.


In other words, the path to a majority government — or even a minority government — goes through many ridings where Canadians are worried about climate change and want the government to take aggressive action.

Compared to the United States, the Canadian public believes climate change is happening in far higher shares. Even Canadian ridings where belief in climate change is the lowest have comparable beliefs to liberal states like Vermont and Washington. Overall Canadian support for a carbon tax is higher than support for a carbon tax in California, often thought of as the most environmentally progressive U.S. state.

Percentage of Canadians, by riding, who believe their province has already been impacted by climate change. Author provided

Importantly, support for specific climate policies remains high in provinces that have already implemented climate laws. For instance, support for a carbon tax in British Columbia, where this policy was introduced in 2008, is the second highest in the country at 61 per cent (Prince Edward Island has the highest support). Similarly, support for emissions trading is second highest in Québec, again just behind P.E.I., where a carbon market was implemented in 2013.

Even Conservative ridings want action

We don’t find evidence of a backlash to carbon taxes or emissions trading — Canadians living in provinces with substantive climate policies continue to support them. Instead, we find substantial support for climate action in the ridings of Canadian politicians who have done the most to undermine Canada’s climate policy.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s provincial riding matches up with the federal riding of Etobicoke North, where 62 per cent of the public supports emissions trading. In other words, Ford ignored the majority will of his own constituents when he acted to repeal Ontario’s policy last year.

Riding-level public opinion estimates for the Saskatchewan riding of Regina-Qu’Apelle, currently represented by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Author provided

The same is true federally. In Scheer’s own riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle, support for carbon taxation is at 52 per cent. Only 41 per cent of Scheer’s own constituents oppose a carbon tax. He too is offside with the people he represents.

The political risks of opposing climate reforms

Our results emphasize how the media can sometimes misinterpret electoral mandates. In Ontario, Doug Ford promised to repeal the province’s emissions trading scheme — and won. But the former Conservative leader, Patrick Brown, supported carbon pricing while enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls.

There are lots of reasons why Canadians choose to change their government, but opposition to carbon pricing hasn’t been one of them.

Climate science is clear on the need to rapidly decrease greenhouse gas emissions to avert the most disastrous consequences of climate change. As a northern country, climate impacts in Canada are already larger than in other places.


Our research, which the public can explore, shows that Canadians everywhere — from the most Conservative to the most Liberal ridings — are united in understanding that climate change poses a major threat to the people and places they cherish. The coming election will provide an opportunity for Canadians have a say in the future of climate policy in their country — and all Canadian politicians should take note.

Source: Canadians in every riding support climate action, new research shows

With hajj under threat, it’s time Muslims joined the climate movement

Given the dependence of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries on oil and oil revenues, strikes me as secondary issue in relation to climate change. However, it might provide an entry point for discussions:

According to research published last week by US scientists, hajj is set to become a danger zone. As soon as next year, they say, summer days in Mecca could exceed the “extreme danger” heat-stress threshold. The news comes just weeks after over 2 million people completed their journey of a lifetime. The environmental threat to the holy pilgrimage is a panic button for British Muslims like me, signaling that the climate crisis is endangering an age-old sacred rite.

Hajj is a pillar of Islam that I’ve yet to undertake, and the physical endurance required will only become more gruelling in coming decades – scientists predict that heat and humidity levels during hajj will exceed the extreme danger threshold 20% of the time from 2045 and 2053, and 42% of the time between 2079 and 2086.

Environmental stewardship may well be advocated by my faith – the Quran states that humans are appointed as “caretakers of the Earth” and the prophet Muhammad organised the planting of trees and created conservation areas called hima – but it hasn’t mobilised Muslims on a mass scale for what the world needs now: a global eco-jihad.

Fazlun Khalid, founder of Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and author of Signs on the Earth: Islam, Modernity and the Climate Crisis, has been on a green mission for over 35 years, but his biggest challenge has been to motivate Muslims. “Islam is inherently environmental, but modernity has induced all of us to distance ourselves from nature. The reason I don’t give up is my grandchildren – what kind of planet will they inherit? How can they perform hajj under those conditions?”

Khalid previously gathered a team of scholars and academics who drafted the Islamic declaration on climate change adopted at the International Islamic climate change symposium in Istanbul in 2015 (an event co-sponsored by Islamic Relief, a global charity that is again calling on Muslims to take action now if they want to safeguard the pilgrimage for future generations). Maria Zafar of Islamic Relief UK said: “Hajj has physically demanding outdoor rituals which can become hazardous to humans. It isn’t only Mecca, other sacred sites will be at risk too, like the religious sites in Jerusalem, the Golden Temple in India – it will affect what we hold dear to our hearts. We think that climate change is distant from us, but there is no area of life that it won’t touch.”

If we are truly to tackle a catastrophe as huge as the climate crisis, we have to make it personal. Without a personal stake, it remains an abstract and we unite in perpetuating it. So if money is the only form of emotional investment for some, and if economics wields more power than the will to save our planet, we must use it. Next year Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 summit, so let’s pressure the country to consider the financial threat due to a loss of religious tourism. Hajj is lucrative: economic experts have said revenues from hajj and umrah (a lesser pilgrimage undertaken any time of year) are set to exceed $150bn by 2022.

Source: With hajj under threat, it’s time Muslims joined the climate movement

Environmental racism grows as environmental groups turn increasingly white | New Orleans’ Multicultural News Source

An angle I hadn’t though about before – climate change reduction measures as “environmental racism” rather than focus on reducing the impacts on lower income groups. The reference to other environmental problems remains valid:

Clean drinking water. Lead paint abatement programs. Affordable energy bills. These are the day-to-day environmental justice issues that are vital to the health and financial well-being of communities – especially low-income families.

But as environmental battles rage across the country, thousands of African-American children and adults are paying a heavy price with their health as elite environmental organizations are overwhelmingly managed by white leaders who appear to ignore key issues that disproportionately impact low-income communities, where African-Americans and other people of color reside. As the diminishing African American voices for environmental justice becomes more prevalent, attention appears to be turning away from environmental hazards disparately plaguing urban areas dominated by Black people across the country such as the following

This February 2016 cover of Time magazine features a rash-covered child during the height of the Flint, Mich. water crisis.

• Cockroach allergens are detected in 85 percent of inner-city homes across the U. S. and 60 to 80 percent “of inner-city children with asthma are sensitized to cockroach based on the skin prick testing,” according to the U.S. Institute of Health.

• Approximately 11.2 percent of African-American children who live in urban areas are at risk for lead poisoning caused by lead-based paint, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• A Center for American Progress report found that water contamination disparately “plagues low-income areas and communities of color across the nation” and that studies have “documented limited access to clean water in low-income communities of color.”

These atrocities are being shoved aside by misaligned priorities. Instead of making a meaningful impact to health and pocketbooks, some environmental organizations focus on apparent vanity projects that garner media attention and money from well-heeled donors.

Among the best examples is an issue playing out in Minnesota, where national environmental groups – including Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council – are waging a major battle described as “resistance against the oil pipelines.” They also are running major fundraising campaigns off of pipeline protests – even though the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration notes that pipelines are “one of the safest and least costly ways to transport energy products.”

Meanwhile, these organizations are all but ignoring the real issues facing Minnesotans. A report indicated that the state’s urban areas have unsuitable and outdated infrastructure, allowing storm water drainage to become a crisis. Yet another report found that the Twin Cities air pollution kills nearly 2,000 people a year taking its greatest toll on those in poverty, who also disproportionately shoulder the burdens of asthma, unclean drinking water, and lead poisoning.

While the environmental groups are shoving environmental health issues aside, they also are promoting an agenda that will drive energy bills even higher for Minnesotans who are already spending far too much of their hard-earned money on energy costs. Families in Clearwater County spend 45.9 percent of their income on energy bills, while Roseau County families spend 44.5 percent – and virtually every county across the state sees energy bills eating away at more than 30 percent of income.

The story is the same across the country, as Alabama families spend nearly 50 percent of their income on energy and Michigan families spend 30 percent and above.

Some believe that these skewed priorities may be happening in part because of the lack of diversity in the environmental movement. A study by Green 2.0 recently found that the movement is only “getting more white,” as it continues to leave out people of color.

The report indicated that nearly 70 percent of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) staff was White. It also concluded that “the top 40 environmental foundations have gotten more White across full time staff, senior staff, and board members.”

Green 2.0 is pressing to deal with the racial inclusion issue in order to infuse greater sensitivity into the environmental justice movement. Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, said in a statement, “Communities of color bring to bear experience and perspective on both problems and pathways to power building. As an organization, we plan to take a more aggressive approach to calling out the environmental movement for their lack of diversity.”

She continued, “For the past five years, we’ve been working to ensure that the environmental movement and its leaders reflect the current U.S. workforce demographics.”

These racial and economic disparities are happening around the country. For example, Louisiana ranks second-worst among U.S. states when examining a wide range of environmental indicators, including water and air quality, energy use and recycling, according to a recent analysis.

While some environmental groups in the area have used their presence to fight issues that impact everyone, such as air quality or safe drinking water, other organizations, with the backing of Greenpeace, are instead focusing on anti-pipeline and anti-energy activism in the state.

The singular focus on one environmental issue while appearing to ignore others implies the presence of environmental racism, a long-used description of the practice of allowing toxics to exist in communities of color.

Meanwhile African-American led organizations are pushing environmental justice agendas, underscoring the importance of such issues in communities of color.

“Clean water is a basic human right,” National Medical Association President Niva Lubin-Johnson, wrote in a commentary posted on last fall. “At the National Medical Association (NMA), we see firsthand how this crisis in clean water creates a variety of healthcare problems for Black patients and their families.”

Instead of seeking ways to make energy more elusive and expensive for communities of color, activist groups could use their initiative to aid in the abating of these most fundamental challenges that continue to push headwinds against many Black families and other families of color.

“This is just the beginning,” says Tome of Green 2.0. “Environmental groups are now on notice.”

Source: Environmental racism grows as environmental groups turn increasingly white | New Orleans’ Multicultural News Source