Journal article

‘Climate refugees’: is it time to legally acknowledge those displaced by climate disruption?

Global environmental change Climate change Refugees Food security Pacific Area
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Climate disruption and its consequences are an emerging public health crisis. While much emphasis is placed on adaptation and mitigation, there is no long‐term plan to support those who face environmental displacement. Continued increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will result in perpetual rise in global mean temperatures. Global precipitation will increase with significant geographical variation; some locations experiencing much more precipitation and others experiencing far less. Increased global temperatures are likely to bring with them continued thinning of the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. Global ocean temperatures increase in all predictive models; deep ocean warming is associated with sea‐level rise. It is strongly anticipated that there will be increased frequency and severity of hurricanes and cyclones.

These changes in climate are likely to bring about a number of adverse events for humans, including food insecurity, drought and coincident degradation of drinking water, increased infectious diseases and increased vector‐borne diseases. Droughts are predicted to leave 700–1,500 million people short of water. Rising sea levels and storm surges are potentially catastrophic for low‐lying land masses, particularly the Pacific Islands; Kiribati and Tuvalu are predicted to be uninhabitable by 2050. As vital resources such as food and drinking water increase in scarcity, it is not inconceivable that conflict may ensue. These are all some of the most imminent reasons populations may become displaced owing to climate disruption.

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