The Climate Emergency is Here: Population Flows.

Nadin Brzezinski
Jun 11 · 7 min read

We hear from the president of the United States that the weather changes all the time. He still conflates weather and climate, which is on purpose. There are doubts about the climate emergency from certain quarters, because there is a lot of money, in the trillions, on the line. This is not unlike the lies told about the efficacy and safety of lead. Nor is this different from the tobacco industry lying to the American public for decades. Yes, nicotine is an addictive product. I suppose that sugar will be next, as we find increasingly the role it plays in inflammation, cardiac artery disease and other issues with public health. But I digress.

The science behind the warming of the planet is clear. It is happening, and it is caused by human beings. The data is clear, starting with the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Suppositions about this process started late in the nineteenth century, though earlier work was clear on it. The industry, meaning Shell, Chevron and the rest, have known about this effect since at least the 1960s. We know this from internal memos.

It is easy to ignore the data as long as it is not that clear. Early on we saw some evidence that was outside scientific papers. At first, it was slightly different weather patterns. Incidentally, the weather is not climate. However, it is affected by the heating of the planet. This is why the scientific community predicted more extreme weather.

The earliest popular paper to speak about the connection between the burning of carbon and the climate came to a Popular Mechanics piece that ran in 1912. It read, as quoted by Big Think:

The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.

This is before we had a lot of data. And granted, the writers believed the effect would move far slower than it is actually taking. However, there you have it. Humans are able to make those connections, even with little data. It was if we are to use proper language, a hypothesis. This is one that is backed with reams of data at this point.

So going back to what people can see. You do not need to be an avid reader of the United Nations, NOAA or NASA reports to know that something is changing. We see a change in weather patterns towards more extreme weather. People started to notice this with Katrina a few years back. Since we have seen an increasing number of larger Atlantic and Pacific storms. The fire season in California is a nice theory at this point. Cal Fire finally surrendered and told us that this is now a year-round phenomenon, with more dramatic months and less dramatic months. At least we are out of the drought.

That same Big Think article points something else that we know from the history of science:

As for thinking climate change could be good, they weren’t alone. The idea that human intervention in the climate was good for us was widespread during the 19th century. Farmers were told that the act of plowing encouraged rainfall in the drier regions of Australia and the United States. In the light of this optimism, the idea that we could warm up the planet probably gave these early climatologists visions of more summer sun and better crop yields rather than nightmares of worsening natural disasters.

Incidentally, if this sounds familiar, it should. A version of this was recently used by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he said that the melting ice sheets would be good for trade. This is also a talking point used by the American Petroleum Institute and a few climate deniers.

Oh never mind the industry known as early as the mid-1960s that their product was engineering the weather. According to the, they wrote the following.

One of the most important predictions of the report is that carbon dioxide is being added to the Earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at such a rate that by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts,”

There was another cavalier statement by the Secretary of State. People should plain out move. He also said a few other things according to CNN, which keep downplaying the emergency:

”Societies reorganize, we move to different places, we develop technology and innovation,” he added. “I am convinced, I am convinced that we will do the things necessary as the climate changes.”

When asked about a potential technological solution, Pompeo replied that “it’s not just technological” and cited the Netherlands, which are partially below sea level, as an example of a successful response.

”We’ll fix it by the way organize. There’s lots of ways that one can address,” he said. “If waters rise, I was just in the Netherlands, all below sea level, right? Living a wonderful, thriving economic situation. The world will be successful. I’m convinced. We will figure out responses to this that address these issues in important and fundamental ways.”

The part of the statement that should catch your attention is migration by human populations. This is the climate refugee flow that many reports started to mention a couple of decades ago. It is not in the future. It is very much in the present. One reason for people leaving Guatemala, in particular, the highlands, is that crops are failing more often than usual. People are leaving because they are hungry. CNN showed one woman who crossed the border with her child. She looked hungry and emaciated. She was not leaving home because of violence. According to National Geographic:

It’s the height of rainy season in Guatemala, but in the village of Conacaste, Chiquimula, the rains came months too late, then stopped altogether. Méndez López’s crops shriveled and died before producing a single ear of corn. Now, with a dwindling supply of food, and no source of income, he’s wondering how he’ll be able to feed his six young children.

“This is the worst drought we’ve ever had,” says Méndez López, toeing the parched earth with the tip of his boot. “We’ve lost absolutely everything. If things don’t improve, we’ll be forced to migrate somewhere else. We can’t go on like this.”

Guatemala is consistently listed among the world’s 10 most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change. Increasingly erratic climate patterns have produced year after year of failed harvests and dwindling work opportunities across the country, forcing more and more people like Méndez López to consider migration in a last-ditch effort to escape skyrocketing levels of food insecurity and poverty.

During the past decade, an average of 24 million people each year were displaced by weather events around the world, and although it’s unclear how many of those displacements can be attributed to human-caused climate change, experts expect this number to continue to rise.

Increasingly, those displaced seek to relocate in other countries as “climate change refugees,” but there’s a problem: the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines the rights of displaced people, provides a list of things people must be fleeing from in order to be granted asylum or refuge. Climate change isn’t on the list.

Pompeo identified, without likely wanting to, one of the major problems with climate change. The Syrian civil war was partially the result of a multi-year unprecedented drought. Likely it was the first civil conflict that can be directly connected to the climate emergency.

Islands are already sinking under the Pacific, and the United States does have climate refugees, whether we want to admit it or not. They are in Alaska and in Louisiana. The help to move them is not there. The current administration would prefer if we ignore the whole thing

In fact, the administration has tried to suppress the testimony to Congress regarding this. Which is opening a whole new battle in the courts for Congress.

The Department of Defense is treating this as a national security crisis. They did not start with the present administration but have stated this for over a decade. This is why many bases are getting solar panels, and are preparing for rising seas. This is also why the military is researching alternative fuels. But these put at risk the present alliance between the White House and the oil industry. It is as if the only thing that matters is extracting the last possible dollar before all these potential energies are left on the ground.

It also helps that the president has no clue about climate and weather. Or for that matter that he cares. For him, all these studies are coming from the elites, and in some ways, it is about “owning the libs.” A lot of what this president does is driven by that attitude from the core of his base, which is magical thinking, and driven by cruelty and spite.

None in the future will care much whether they owned the libs or not. The emergency is going to get worst. And looking at heatwave maps, this will soon include the food producing areas of Mexico; this is the Bajio Central. Incidentally, due to more extreme weather, the American plains are currently underwater and time is running short to put crops into the ground. The map I added for the heat wave is from Mexican Civil Defense and Conagua. Unlike our maps, it covers some of the United States and both Belize and Guatemala. Fun fact, an imaginary line on a map does not stop the heat. Perhaps, in the not so distant future, we will face hunger again in the United States. The age of food a-plenty may be coming to an end.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system

Nadin Brzezinski

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system