Climate Refugees

Courtesy of Global Panorama

Today is World Refugee Day.

Forced human migration is at unprecedented levels. There are an estimated 65 million displaced people in the world today. Of those, more than 22 million are forced refugees and over half are under 18 years old. According to UNHCR, nearly 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute.

This morning, I spoke with Joe Speicher, Executive Director of the Autodesk Foundation, to discuss the impacts of climate change on human migration.

Speicher’s formal expertise is in economics and international development. His practical experience has led him all over the world as a social entrepreneur and a macroeconomic advisor.

Today is World Refugee Day.

Forced human migration is at unprecedented levels. There are an estimated 65 million displaced people in the world today. Of those, more than 22 million are forced refugees and over half are under 18 years old. According to UNHCR, nearly 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute.

This morning, I spoke with Joe Speicher, Executive Director of the Autodesk Foundation, to discuss the impacts of climate change on human migration.

Speicher’s formal expertise is in economics and international development. His practical experience has led him all over the world as a social entrepreneur and a macroeconomic advisor.

With the Autodesk Foundation, Speicher works on-the-ground in some of the world’s most vulnerable areas to help bring relief from immediate threat and solutions to long-term risks.

Of all the issues on the world stage, none is more pressing for Speicher and his colleagues than climate change. The unfolding impacts of climate change portend human tragedy.

Behind the politically-charged and misinformed rhetoric surrounding the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is the human story of climate displacement already begun. And not only in some far-flung corner of the world, but right here in Donald Trump’s America. From the Bayous of Louisiana to the barrier islands off the Atlantic coast and native villages of Alaska, climate change has arrived, and it is taking names.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but Speicher believes the refugee crisis will never be solved until and unless we deal with climate change. “We think 65 million refugees currently around the world — that we know of — is a lot,” he says.

“If we don’t deal with the impacts of climate change, the number of refugees increases by orders of magnitude.”

Speicher cites studies suggesting between 200 and 500 million coastal residents could be forced from their home in the next 30 to 80 years.

“If we want to keep those numbers manageable,” Speicher says, “we’ve got to start dealing with the impacts of climate change.”

Some may argue the number of refugees in the world is already at unmanageable levels. Some seek to wall off their surroundings from the tumult of human misery. That works, perhaps, for some; for a little while. It is no solution.

Isolation is a delusion motivated by fear. Climate change finds us all.

Like what you read? Give Tom Schueneman a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.