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.

Sanjay Jeram. GERRY KAHRMANN / PNG

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. NICK PROCAYLO/ PNG

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

Dr. King Said Segregation Harms Us All. Environmental Research Shows He Was Right.@NYTimes

Speaks for itself:

A half-century ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. To get to the site, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum, you can cross through neighborhoods that are as much as 97 percent black or as much as 93 percent white.

Dr. King preached that segregation was harmful not only to black Americans but also to the nation as a whole. He died before the modern environmental movement, but a growing body of research around pollution and health shows that his belief about segregation hurting everyone extends to the environment as well. Many American cities that are more racially divided have higher levels of pollution than less segregated cities. As a result, both whites and minorities who live in less integrated communities are exposed to higher levels of pollution than those who live in more integrated areas.

“The price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro is the price of its own destruction,” Dr. King wrote in a 1962 address, “An Analysis of the Ethical Demands of Integration.” In it, he set out the political, ethical and spiritual reasons he believed that segregation was harmful for all. Some historians say his thoughts are applicable to understanding environmental issues today.

Researchers have known since at least the 1980s that black and Hispanic communities have higher levels of pollution and its associated harmful health effects than white communities, even when controlling for income. Studies show that racial discrimination leads governments and companies to place polluting facilities, like landfills, power plants and truck routes, in black and Hispanic communities. Race is not the only factor in environmental inequality — poorer people experience more pollution than wealthier people. But for blacks, race trumps income. Middle-class blacks experience higher levels of pollution than low-income whites.

Over the past decade, more researchers have focused on the correlation between segregation and broad pollution exposure. Residents of a city like Memphis, they have found, are exposed to more pollution than those living in a city like Tampa, Fla., which is less racially divided.

“Even though white residents in segregated cities were better off than residents of color in those segregated cities, those white residents were worse off than their white counterparts in less segregated cities,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor of environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley.

Studies have found this relationship between segregation and air pollution, water pollution and even noise pollution. A large body of literature shows that high exposure to certain pollution can cause asthma, heart disease and many other negative health effects.

“It’s so much pollution that it led not only to very high exposure to minorities but it actually bounces back to at least some whites,” said Michael Ash, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an author of a study that looked at the impact of segregation on pollution levels.

There are several ways to look at segregation: by isolation, defined as the degree to which ethnic groups are clustered together, or by dissimilarity, defined as how evenly two groups are spread across an area. By either method, pollution is higher in more segregated communities.

The average white person in metropolitan America lives in a neighborhood that is 75 percent white. The average black person lives in a neighborhood that is 35 percent white and 45 percent black. Those numbers have not changed much since 1940.

These studies do not prove that segregation leads to more pollution, or vice versa. But the outcomes showing that all people who live in racially divided communities are exposed to higher levels of pollution probably would not have surprised Dr. King, according to King scholars.

“King thinks that racism divides the people who are most vulnerable and most disempowered for economic and political reasons,” said Brandon M. Terry, an assistant professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard and an editor of a new book on Dr. King’s political theories.

“In a community where there are really stark racial tensions it’s going to be really difficult to organize a large enough group to fight back against exploitative industries or corporations that don’t want to do their fair share to take care of environmental hazards,” Dr. Terry said. “All those people have to do is invoke the idea of a racial interest and they can split those groups quite easily.”

Several studies have shown that unequal societies invest less in environmental policies, monitoring and research.

“In more segregated cities, communities of color and the poor might be less able to have civic engagement power and influence land-use decision making,” said Dr. Morello-Frosch. “They have less ability to resist” when decisions are made about polluting activities, she said.

Dr. King may have foreshadowed this in his 1963 speech in Detroit. “Segregation is a cancer in the body politic,” he said, “which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized.”

via Dr. King Said Segregation Harms Us All. Environmental Research Shows He Was Right. – The New York Times