Introduction climate refugee actually is. This happens because

Introduction

Climate change has become a major concern for the
international community and it affects all regions around the world. From
Europe to Asia, from melting ice and rising sea levels to extreme weather
conditions, such as more frequent heat waves, droughts, forest fires or floods
and wetter winters –depending on the area-, the consequences of climate change
are huge and they are not hypothetical; they are current reality. Both
developed and developing countries are affected, but the last ones have it
worse, since people that live there depend heavily on their natural environment
for their living, considering that most people work on sectors that rely a lot
on temperature levels, such as agriculture, forestry and tourism. The
consequences are big in society and economy as well, since heavy costs are
imposed due to damage on infrastructure, property and human health.

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There is also one more very serious and important
corollary of climate change and that is migration. To start with, it is quite
difficult to define what a climate refugee actually is. This happens because
when a person decides to move, they will probably have based their decision in
quite a few reasons, none of which will be exclusively connected to climate
change. Although it is very hard to acquire reliable statistics, considering
that we don’t know exactly what it is that we are counting, it is estimated
that between 2008 and 2016 there was a total of 227.6 millions of people being
displaced because of weather-related hazards. No nation is excluded from
climate change, but there is a higher risk of displacement for the most
populous and exposed to hazards countries. Asia is very high on the scale of
displaced persons, due to its big areas, high population and the very frequent
natural hazards that occur there. However, according to the International Panel
on Climate Change and when considering the ratio of total population to the
displaced people, most of the Pacific nations come first in the scale. For
example, back in 2015, when Cyclone Pam occurred 25% of Tuvalu’s and 55% of
Vanuatu’s population was displaced.

Migration is not a new occurrence in the Pacific
Nations. Through the last centuries, too many Pacific islanders have chosen the
road to migration in response to changes both in the environmental and in the
social picture. Nowadays, the excess of contemporary migration from Pacific
island nations has resulted in a big part of the area’s population being
permanently resettled abroad. It is reported that today about half a million
Pacific islanders live overseas, which means one-fourth of the total population
of Micronesia and Polynesia combined. In parts of Polynesia, actually, more
people reside in foreign land than in the home islands.  On the other hand, in Melanesia migration
remains mostly internal, which means people affected by the climate change
choose to move to safest parts of their countries, instead of crossing
international borders. It is stated that all Pacific island nations are vulnerable
to changes caused by the climate change. However, some communities will have to
face immense challenges, such as rapid population growth, which will result in
overpopulation in areas with very limited resources, and limited prospects for
economic improvement. Those are the atoll communities and countries, which are
considered to be the most exposed and weak of all and are expected to become a
big source for migrants and refugees related to climate change.

As it can easily be understood, climate change is not
a situation that only affects the land and the nature. The lives of millions of
people residing in those areas heavily rely on the outcome of this situation
and when talking about migration or displacement, there needs to be a
well-respected international context and agreement that protects the people
that are affected, something that currently does not exist and needs to be
created.

 

 

Nature
of movement, affected persons and applicable framework

 

It is estimated that most of the movements caused by
climate change and environmental degradation will take place within a country’s
borders. However, international movement is also very likely to happen in some occurrences.
According to UNHCR’s official site and the Representative of the
Secretary-General on the human rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Walter
Kälin, there are five main and different climate-related scenarios that may
cause human movement and displacement.

To start with, the first scenario is the one, whose
cause of movement is the “hydro-meteorological extreme hazard events” that
occur. The hydro-meteorological disasters are caused by extreme meteorological
and climate events, such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones,
tornados, landslides and mudslides. These occur in all parts of the world and
account for a big fraction of natural disasters, although the frequency,
intensity and vulnerability of certain hazards differ from region to region.
Fatalities and infrastructure damage can be caused by disasters, like floods
and droughts, severe storms and strong winds. Apart from causing injuries,
deaths and material damage though, a tropical storm is also able to result in
flooding and mudslides, that cause disorder in water purification and sewage disposal
systems, as well as in overflow of toxic wastes and increase reproduction of
mosquito-borne diseases. As a result of those hazards, the people affected by
this type of events will have to move from the damaged regions, either by a
temporary forced displacement within or outside of national borders, or a
temporary voluntary movement across international borders.

The second scenario refers to “areas designated by
authorities as prohibited and unsuitable for habitation”. As a result of all the
types of hydro-meteorological disasters mentioned above, such as floods,
droughts, hurricanes etc, some states are very likely to practice their
sovereign obligation to protect their citizens by labeling some zones as
high-risk ones, which means that because of their location –this for example
could mean that they are prone to floods or landslides-, they are too dangerous
for humans to continue living there. Therefore, governments may have to proceed
with applying forced evacuation and displacement of people from their lands, not
allowing them to return to them and at the same time relocating them to safe
areas within a country’s national borders.

To continue with, the third scenario is linked to “environmental
degradation and slow onset extreme hazard events”. This could refer to droughts
and desertification, land and forest degradation, reduction of water
availability, repetitive flooding, salinization and glacial retreat, which means
deteriorating situations and hazards, whose impacts take from months to decades
to manifest. Once again, in such situations, the processes of movements will
likely be gradual beginning with voluntary movements (both within and outside
of national borders) and ending in forced displacement (again both within and
outside of national borders).

The fourth scenario is about “significant permanent
losses in state territory as a result of sea level rise”