Climate change is forcing human and non-human beings to become climate refugees

Climate change is forcing human and non-human beings to become climate refugees

Article originally published on Reality Checks with Staci-Lee

Bio: Staci-Lee Sherwood

Staci-Lee Sherwood is a courageous writer and passionate animal advocate based in the US who highlights the plight of frequently forgotten species on the brink of extinction, as well as persecuted species, such as wild horses and wolves in her home country. She started Reality Checks with Staci-Lee as a way of providing helpful information to concerned animal lovers about what is really happening to wild animals in America. She does not shy away from naming and shaming individuals, corporations and government agencies responsible for this immense cruelty. In addition to her website Reality Checks with Staci-Lee, she often publishes companion videos on Youtube. She is a part of the #Boycott4Wildlife collective of activists and she is deeply concerned about the threat of palm oil agriculture, deforestation, poaching and other threats on rare rainforest animals.

Her work has been published in Scubaverse, Emagazine, Wild World magazine, Sea Speak Sphere, DiscoverScience 2020, Pagosa Daily Post, Daily Kos, The Good Men Project, Straight from the Horse’s Heart, Spirit Change and her poetry has been published in Fevers of the mind.

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Climate change. Climate denial. Global warming. Call it what you will, the planet is shouting at us. We have ignored the warning signs for decades, but we can no longer ignore what is happening right now.

Decade old muted warnings have now become blaring bull horns. We need #ClimateActionNow to prevent human and non-human beings becoming #climatechange refugees. By @RStacilee #Boycott4Wildlife

Human and non-human beings are becoming #climatechange #refugees. In a changing #climate choices are clear – move and live or stay and perish. By poet and animal advocate @RStacilee #Boycott4Wildlife

The definition of refugee or displaced person is someone fleeing a life-threatening crisis. The emerging refugees of this century are fleeing unliveable environmental conditions brought about by climate change and other complex interrelated factors including conflict, disease and famine. Humans and non-human beings alike are becoming climate change refugees. The choices are stark and clear – move and live or stay where you are and perish.

What started out decades ago as muted warnings about the future have now turned into blaring bull horns. Politicians waste time spinning whatever tales fit their agenda but we are out of time if we don’t want to go down with the sinking ship called Earth.

The damage we have done to the planet’s natural resources can never be undone. Equally damaging is the lack of political will to pivot to more sustainable less damaging forms of energy or food production. None of this happened in a bubble nor did it happen overnight.

According to the Internal Displacement Migration Centre (IDMC)’s 2022 GRID report, from the total of 38 million new internal displacements registered in 2021, 23.7 million were triggered by disasters. At the end of 2021, at least 5.9 million people in 84 countries and territories were living in displacement as a result of disasters that happened not only in 2021, but also in previous years (IDMC, 2022).  

As far back as the 1970s and 80s we knew much of the damage we were doing. One can only blow up so many mountains or release so many chemicals into the air and water before our fragile ecosystems become damaged beyond repair.

We humans attribute the term refugee (or displaced person) only to other humans. However, the reality is that any living creature who is forced to leave their native home in order to survive is a climate refugee or a climate displaced being.

As the global climate changes, human well-being, ecosystem function, and even climate itself are increasingly affected by the shifting geography of life.
Climate-driven changes in species distributions, or range shifts, affect human well-being both directly (for example, through emerging diseases and changes in food supply) and indirectly (by degrading ecosystem health). Some range shifts even create feedbacks (positive or negative) on the climate system, altering the pace of climate change. ‘Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being’, Science 2017.

For non-human beings, the extreme impacts of climate change mean either dying or quickly adapting and moving on. In many cases, adaptation is not a realistic or feasible choice.

For humans living at sea level on the coast – they too will face having to migrate to higher ground and risk losing their homes to coastal erosion and rising tides. These changes are already occurring in different parts of the world.

What the oceans tell us

We’ve all heard the news stories with dire warnings about a warming ocean, rising tides and ocean acidification. This is having a devastating effect on marine animals, as they rely on shells for protection. Acid in the water is thinning the delicate shells of these crustaceans and putting species survival in jeopardy.

Rising tides have already caused erosion for many coastal dwellers. For many small island nations that means many residents will be forced to emigrate or (if possible) move inland. In wealthy nations, waterfront property that was once highly prized will become harder to sell. As buyers will weigh up the likelihood of the property being flooded.

Greenwashing stock image -Climate Change by Sean Weston
Climate Change by Sean Weston

Overfishing, pollution and extinction

The oceans are fast becoming depleted from overfishing and plastic pollution. Plastic now covers a huge portion of the ocean and generates dead zones. Marine species are given nowhere to go. Countless marine species are on the brink of extinction. If we don’t stop polluting the oceans and other ecosystems there will be nothing left.

Hot chicks and cool dudes

Did you know that the temperature of sand determines the gender of the hatchlings. The phrase ‘hot chicks and cool dudes’ is an easy way for you to remember that the hotter the sand the more females hatch. This means the rising temperatures of climate change interferes with the normal gender balance of the turtles.

Sea Turtles are called living fossils because they haven’t changed much since first appearing more than 100 million years ago. They are smaller in size than their ancestors and pretty much resemble what you would have seen if you were swimming in the ocean during the Cretaceous period.

For millions of years nature provided balance and equilibrium for them. In return they helped to balance marine ecosystems. Turtles are known as an ‘indicator’ species as their behaviour and population numbers can reveal the health of the ecosystem.

A Green Sea Turtle hatching in South Florida

Sea turtles are already experiencing devastating effects of a warming climate. Many beaches are now so hot that they only produce females. Once the sex ratio becomes unbalanced, the number of individuals in a population crashes. For sea turtles, this spells extinction unless a global movement is started to use indoor temperature controlled hatcheries.

A 2018 study in Boca Raton, Florida found that nearly all hatchlings were female. This isn’t an isolated event and is happening all over the world with sea turtle populations.

Read more

The Guardian: More sea turtles will be born female as the climate warms

Not just Island nations

Island nations, particularly in the Pacific ocean are at the front lines of climate change. Many of these small island nations may be underwater in the coming decades.

In some countries, the development of coastal areas means replacing dunes and natural coastal vegetation and mangrove ecosystems. This is replaced with housing developments. However, coastal development is controversial, as removing dunes and beach vegetation damages the ecosystem and ruins its natural beauty.

High tide flooding and erosion in Meduro, Marshall Islands. AFP

Beach renourishment, which is the process of adding sand to replace the sand lost through erosion, is a common practice. Although this is only a temporary fix. Without dune vegetation, there is nothing to hold the sand in place. Island nations often don’t have the space or resources to combat this erosion. This means a permanent loss of beach.

A lone survivor of coastal erosion in Vunidogoloa, a village on Fiji’s island of Vanua Levu. In 2014, all 153 villagers needed to relocate several miles inland. Credit: NRDC
During a king tide in Miami Beach, Florida a worker checks on the status of a storm drain while almost completely submerged in seawater. Credit : NRDC

Bigger, stronger and longer lasting storms

In 2008 the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted an intense increase in storms. Looking at the history of Atlantic hurricanes, some new dangerous patterns have emerged. In the last 15 years, hurricanes have become bigger, stronger and lasted longer.

Hurricanes like Sandy, Irma and Dorian were twice the size of previous hurricanes and were categorised as CAT 4 or 5. These hurricanes used to be common in southeastern US and the Carribean. However, they now reach the entire east coast including Canada.

In 2022, tornados made the news for several weeks as dozens simultaneously swept across several midwestern states wrecking havoc. Places that had rarely experienced tornados suddenly had dozens.

3 billion animals perish in the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires

Droughts and hotter drier weather have resulted in the optimal conditions for wildfires throughout the world. The western US has a year round wildfire season now. In 2019-2020 a series of apocalyptic fires swept across swathes of the vast Australian continent. An estimated 3 billion animals died, some disappeared from our world permanently.

[Below] kangaroos seeking shelter from bushfires that raged for months. Like the koalas and many other Australian species, they face an uncertain future.

Climate as a homeland security issue

As far back as 1990, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States put together a task for on climate change. They wanted to assess the future ramifications of climate change along with water/food shortages and their impact to national security.

In the ensuing years, there has been many studies and task forces but very little meaningful action.

Climate change is forcing human and non-human beings to become climate refugees

Fast-forward to 2022 and we are just as addicted to burning fossil fuels in America

“Climate change is an important factor in the current and future operating environment for the Joint Force, affecting foreign nations’ internal stability and military capabilities. We assess that climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests, as physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond. The physical effects of climate change are likely to intensify cross migraborder geopolitical flashpoints, including a growing risk of conflict over water, food, and mineral resources.”

“Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040” published in 2022.

Take a look around and you’ll see eco refugees of all species. Some are migrating from floods others from wildfires or water pollution.

This map from Nature Conservancy shows not only how birds, amphibians, and mammals will track suitable habitats as they shift, but does so in visually stunning animation across all of North and South America.  View full screen map

Some non-human species that can migrate to safer grounds will do so. Although many non-human beings will not be able to adapt sufficiently to the radically altered ecological conditions and may go the same way as other species that we have lost forever.

It is our responsibility as the dominant species of the Anthropocene era to mitigate the damage that has already happened and to immediately take action on climate before it is too late.

Only time will tell if the political agenda of the greedy few will continue to hold the world captive. Or will a much needed acceptance of reality set in? Only time will tell and it is not on our side.

In a blink of an eye we could all become eco refugees. Look at the 2022 heat wave, drought and wildfire crisis in the US and Europe.  The UK has infrastructure that is literally melting.  What more proof do you need?

Boycott the brands causing deforestation for palm oil, soy and meat by joining the #Boycott4Wildlife

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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

4 thoughts on “Climate change is forcing human and non-human beings to become climate refugees

    1. Absolutely…it is insane what the people in power are doing to our world and all of the rest of us will suffer as a result of their greed, which is why it’s good to boycott the corrupt brands responsible for ecocide, it is a great and empowering way to personally make a difference in the face of vast corruption. #Boycott4Wildlife

      Liked by 1 person

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