Climate Refugees — Extreme Weather Displaced 157.8 Million People From 2008 to 2014

Does it seem to you that the weather is getting worse? Rainfall more intense, droughts drier, longer, more prolific, the strongest storms growing ever stronger? Well, in this case, seeming is all-too-real.

Four decades ago our climate was more placid. Global temperatures were about 0.5 C cooler than they are today. There was less available heat energy to pump up storms. The intensity of evaporation and precipitation was about 4 percent less than it is today and the pace of global warming due to an ongoing fossil fuel emission was slower. Our atmosphere has changed. It has become more dangerous. More capable of producing extreme and disrupting weather events.

Scale of displacement

Nearly 158 million people, or a number equivalent to just under half the population of the United States, were forced from their homes as a result of extreme weather over the past 7 years. It’s a number six times greater than those displaced by earthquakes, volcanoes or other geophysical causes. Individuals living on the Earth today are now at a 60 percent greater risk of being displaced — chiefly due to increases in extreme weather — than they were in 1975. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

And it’s for these reasons that you and I are more vulnerable. More likely to become a casualty of worsening weather. For according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Agency, an agency that tracks the number of displaced persons globally, you and I are 60 percent more likely now to be forced from our homes by a natural disaster than we were in 1975.

The numbers at this point are pretty concerning. On average, over the past 7 years, 26 million people have been displaced by natural disasters in a single year during that period. For 2014, the count was 19.3 million, 17.5 million of which came from extreme weather events — a factor directly related to human-caused climate change. In total, weather disasters resulted in 157.8 million people being forced to flee their homes during the entire period from 2008 to 2014. Extreme weather — not warfare, volcanoes, or tsunami — is now the primary reason human beings are displaced. Droughts, wildfires, floods, powerful hurricanes, superstorms. A litany of self inflicted violence whose impacts we are continuing to worsen.

Displacement by hazard type

From 2008 to 2014, storms and floods resulted in 84% of natural disaster caused displacements. In 2014, storms and floods generated 91% of the total displacement. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

The Impacts of Displacement Linger as Worsening Weather, Sea Level Rise Loom

Displacement caused by natural disasters is not an easy problem to fix. Anyone who suffered the loss of a home due to impacts related to Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina can attest to the fact that it often takes a long, long time to become re-established under a secure shelter. For this reason millions of people displaced by extreme weather disasters over the last few years have continued to live as a kind of climate refugee — forced to reside in tent villages or other temporary shelters. Reliant on government assistance because much of what they had, the storms destroyed. Often segregated from larger populations these groups suffer greater risk of falling into permanent poverty and contracting disease even as they are even more vulnerable to subsequent displacement from follow-on events.

As global warming intensifies and the risk of extreme weather events continues to increase, there is also an increasing risk that this expanding number of displaced persons will result in nation-destabilizing stresses in various regions of the world. Currently, the greatest number of displaced persons is centered in the high population density countries of Asia and the Caribbean. But as climate change begins to add another flood stress due to global sea level rise, it is likely that displacement will become ever more ubiquitous.

Even more concerning is the fact that the storms we see now are the early, easy outliers. The ‘small’ climate change weather demons that have already displaced more than 150 million people. Hansen’s Storms of our Grandchildren haven’t yet arrived in full force. And rates of sea level rise are just now starting to ramp up. Would that we had the wit, will, and wisdom to help prevent at least some of this unfolding tragedy. If we do not, there’s no fall back. We’re it.

Links:

Internal Displacement Monitoring Center

NOAA Temperature Graph

How Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Pumps up The Hydrological Cycle to Generate Extreme Weather

The Storms of My Grandchildren

 

 

Pope Francis Encyclical to Set Divine Imperative — Halt Climate Wreckage, Help the Poor

The Pope is on a mission. The most moral and ethical mission of this century and perhaps of all time. A mission to stop a fossil fueled capitalist monstrosity from a “tyrranical” destruction of much of the world’s life-sustaining resources for the temporary gain of a handful of wealthy billionaires. A mission to stop this unjust system from victimizing the poor and from swelling their ranks with climate change sacrifice zone refugees. A mission to stop this unbridled, amoral, money-worshipping construct from killing our peoples, our civilizations, our planet.

Pope Climate Action

(In the lead-up to the 2015 Climate Summit in Paris, the Pope is urging the world to take climate action. His new encyclical will focus on the moral and spiritual imperative to preserve and nurture the Earth’s life support systems and to help the poor. The Pope views climate action as not only a moral and social justice issue, but also as a divine imperative. He sees the role of fossil fuel based political, market and resource domination as deeply unjust — a tyrannical treatment of nature and the poor that puts humankind under existential threat.)

The Pope is on a mission. A divinely inspired mission to root out a deep injustice that has been with all people, all nations, since the beginning, but that has greatly worsened due to the exploitation of fossil fuels and a proliferation of institutions possessing no moral values and only valuing a greed-based profit motive. A mission we must succeed in if we are to survive and have much hope of thriving in the coming years, decades, and centuries. A mission which you are called to join if you are thinking, feeling, and believe in life outside of the money-worship and resultant carbon conflagration that has now put every human, every creature into ever-amplifying peril.

It is a mission the Pope will more deeply explore in his coming encyclical on Thursday, June 18. A call for action that bears the clear and undeniable message: “If we destroy God’s Creation, it will destroy us.”

And it is very clear from the early releases of his upcoming proclamation that the Pope is taking on the powerful and wealthy political supporters of fossil fuel burning around the world. Taking on the 169 billionaires who now hold in their hands more than half of all the world’s wealth. A wealth whose concentration is enabled by unfair market systems and the domination of enforced consumption of finite and terribly destructive fossil fuels. An unjust base of terrible economic might enforced by conservative (neo-liberal) policies that delay and deny renewable energy adoption, the expansion of more efficient energy use, and that force destructive fossil fuel use upon ever growing numbers of people.

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The Pope’s Clear Message — Help the Poor, Cease Environmental Destruction

To these points, the Pope has laid down a number of clear messages. The Pope warns us of expanding poverty and a swelling of the number of refugees due to economic exploitation and climate change:

[A] threat to peace arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.

The Pope calls us to understand the essential imperative to protect the Earth and to nurture both it and its creatures. To not abuse, exploit, or destroy it. In other words, we are Earth’s protectors and nurturers, not her tyrants and good work is directly linked to the care of the Earth:

Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work.

The Pope tells us that the global hothouse crisis is existential for human beings and one that is due to a failure of human ethics:

We are experiencing a moment of crisis; we see it in the environment, but we mostly see it in man. The human being is at stake: here is the urgency of human ecology! And the danger is serious because the cause of the problem is not superficial, but profound, it’s not just a matter of economics, but of ethics.

The Pope equates the current incarnation of neo-liberal (read US conservative) market capitalism and hyper-individualism to the ancient golden calf idol of the Bible saying:

We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money. Trickle-down economics is a failed theory. Excessive consumerism is killing our culture, values and ethics. The conservative ideal of individualism is undermining the common good.

The Pope sees greed-based economic systems as tyrannical, unjust and destructive, forcing unhealthy consumption, and calls for a radical new financial system to avoid human inequality and environmental devastation:

It is no longer man who commands but money. Cash commands. Greed is the motivation. An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rthymn of consumption that is inherent to it. [A] radical new financial system [is required] to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation.

The Pope calls us to stop seeking to dominate and exploit Creation, but to instead cooperate with, care for and respect it. That it is a task set out by God to live in the heartbeat of Creation. To nurture Creation. To care for Creation. This is the calling in each of our hearts:

This task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of Creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not care for Creation, we do not respect it. Nurturing and caring for Creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us. It is a part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.

The Pope notes that caring for the poor and caring for creation are linked and that there is no way out of the crisis without a radical cessation of every kind of exploitation and harm to innocents:

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution can be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems as environmental damage does trickle down most on the poor.

This is a divine mission. One the Pope has called upon you to support. To give aid and lend your effort to the divine imperative to help the poor and to preserve the life-sustaining bounty of Earth. Will you join him? Or will you join the others? Those the scriptures have aptly labeled — Destroyers of the Earth?

Links:

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Explosive Intervention by Pope Francis Set to Transform Climate Change Debate

Pope Francis’s Revolution Launches Thursday

Growth Shock and Our Climate Change Choices: Mitigation and Adaptation, or Harm

Climate change, a topic that once was the purview of scientists and academics, has now become a central issue in today’s political and social discussion. The primary reason for this shift is the emergence of increasingly abnormal, damaging, and severe weather events that have come with greater and greater frequency to plague the world’s cities, states and nations. Tornadoes have devoured entire towns, hurricanes have become more numerous and powerful, freak hybrid superstorms are now a serious risk, 100 year flood events have become commonplace, wildfires are now endemic, causing damage in the billions of dollars annually, and immense country-spanning droughts now range the globe.

A secondary reason for our growing awareness is that it is becoming obvious that the world’s ice sheets are in rapid retreat even as sea levels are on the rise. Nine out of ten glaciers are in decline. The great ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland lose hundreds of cubic miles of ice annually. The resultant sea level rise driven by this melt and by thermal expansion of the oceans puts entire cities, states and nations into existential crisis. By the end of this century, practically all of south Florida may be little more than a shrinking archipelago. Some Pacific island nations are planning their inevitable evacuation to places like Australia, New Zealand, or the continents. Almost all coastal cities will be forced to expend significant monies and resources over the next century if they are to have any hope of warding off the rising seas and more powerful storms. An effort that, in the end, may well prove in vain.

It is a slow motion disaster movie script that plays before our eyes now, almost weekly, on the evening news. And there are many, many events that the mainstream media does not cover, likely due to the fact that it has become saturated with stories of this kind.

Growth Shock and Climate Change

Unfortunately this rising climate change emergency is just one aspect of a larger crisis of civilization-wide Growth Shock. Growth Shock is a dangerous condition brought on by a combination of our inexorably expanding global population, our over consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources, and the damage to our environment via carbon pollution that results in climate change. These three forces are all enabled by a great human limiter — Greed — which has been institutionalized in so many of the world’s corporations and is deeply imbedded both explicitly and implicitly in the world’s political systems and ideologies. So to solve climate change, we will also have to do much better at solving the problems of overpopulation, dangerous and violent methods of resource consumption, and the underlying disease of human greed.

To this point it is worth considering a statement from the ground-breaking sustainability work The Limits to Growth:

“If a society’s implicit goals are to exploit nature, enrich the elites, and ignore the long term, then that society will develop technologies and markets that destroy the environment, widen the gap between the rich and the poor, and optimize for short term gains. In short, that society develops technologies and markets that hasten a collapse instead of preventing it.”

I have also just completed my own work on the issue entitled Growth Shock: Tragedy and Hope at the Limits of a Finite World which will see electronic publication within the next two weeks.

Here is the cover image, brilliantly rendered by Matthew Friedman, in which the Vitruvian Man (representing the unsustainable and exploitative structures of humankind) seems to have grown too big for his own good and struggles unhappily against the globe’s confines:

Growth Shock Cover Art

The roll-out for this work will proceed over the next two weeks and it will be managed in such a way as to responsibly redistribute proceeds to charitable causes that, in my view, have been most effective in working to reduce the harm caused by Growth Shock and the related climate emergency (more on this later).

In any case, as climate change is one of the four forces enabling Growth Shock, we have come to a time where we are compelled to make choices and act in ways that prevent further harm through mitigation, to attempt to adapt to the growing nightmare that is now upon us, or to make the choice to fail to act and therefore increase the degree and velocity of harm coming down the pipe.

Mitigation

The obvious and worsening climate emergency that we are now just starting to experience has galvanized a growing cadre of grass roots organizations and individuals dedicated to the cause of preventing as much of the coming damage as possible. These advocates of mitigation believe that strong action now has the greatest chance of reducing future harm. And their efforts and advocacy are based in the sciences. With extreme weather and damaging events ramping up at 400 ppm CO2, the situation is bound to be far worse at 450, 550, 700, or the 900 ppm CO2 predicted under business as usual by the end of this century. Mitigation advocates are clear in the understanding that the less CO2 and other greenhouse gasses we emit, the less dangerous the ultimate crisis will become.

Mitigation and preventing future harm, therefore, must rely on a combination of efforts. Rapidly increasing renewable energy development will be needed to replace a large enough portion of fossil fuel use to sustain life support systems for the planet’s 7 billion human beings. This will involve a politically difficult replacement of fossil energy sources with clean sources like wind and solar as well as the regulation and eventual elimination of carbon emissions altogether. A more efficient use of space and, over all, more efficient life styles will also do much to prevent damage through both reducing energy and materials consumption. Such a transition will be difficult under current economies that are designed to endlessly increase the consumption of materials, labor, and resources all while funneling wealth to the top of social systems. These social and economic structures dangerously enhance the level of damage we cause and so must be challenged and called into question if we are to make much head-way.

To this point, a large shift away from the massive agribusiness of meat farming may well be needed. Today, more than 65 billion livestock are estimated to be held in states of captivity far more brutal and intolerable than even the worst-treated of human criminals. The lifespans of most of these creatures is doomed to a tortuously short 1-4 years and the unspeakable suffering many experience during their times as livestock animals is a black scar of atrocity born by our race.

An estimated 40% of the world’s grain crop goes to supporting this terrible and inhumane manifestation of food industry. Further, the lion’s share of the 30% of human greenhouse gas emissions attributed to human agriculture is based in the meat industry. As such, our industry enhanced dependence on harming animals for food and materials is likely to have to be greatly abated as part of a comprehensive climate change mitigation action. In any case, the amoral practices required by industry to produce such high volumes of meat render it ethically as well as physically unsustainable.

A true comprehensive mitigation will also have to redefine current paradigms of growth and wealth generation. Economic systems will have to become less focused on short term gains and concentrating wealth at the top and more focused on long-term prosperity and survivability through a more equal sharing of and access to more limited resources. The exploitative paradigm of pure capitalism has failed and failed again. This is largely due to the fact that pure capitalism tends to demand all responsibility be placed on the less fortunate and successful masses as the more fortunate are enabled to behave as little more than privileged anarchists. To mitigate the social shocks that are inevitable during a climate crisis and to reign in the massive, excessive and abusive over-use of resources by the wealthy, more responsibility must be demanded from the most privileged members of societies. Wealth compression, therefore, is an effective tool in reducing the harm caused by an over-consumption of resources at the upper rungs of civilization where some members consume more than 100,000 times the resources of a subsistence farmer and about 3,000 times the resources of a person living in today’s middle class.

Since the levels of exploitation and consumption that have enabled climate change to run rampant are encouraged and required by today’s neo-liberal and globalized brand of capitalism, this manifestation of capitalism must be reigned in, caged and defanged if we are to have much hope of mitigating the larger crisis of climate change.

Adaptation

Since we missed our chance to mitigate much of the damage from climate change by about 30 years (we’d have been much better off if we began rapid CO2 reductions, sustainability and wealth compression efforts in the 70s and 80s), a massive effort to adapt to the changes now set in motion will probably be necessary. It is likely that we’ve already locked in many decades of increasingly severe weather, and, likely, centuries of rising seas. Ultimate sea level rise based on the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere will probably terminate at between 15 and 75 feet higher than the current day (rising at between 5 and 15 feet per century). These changes are probably locked in now even if we halt all CO2 emissions today. But, more likely, our best realistic hope is probably to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels at around 450 parts per million, which would result in higher-end damages being locked in for centuries.

As a result, if we are to continue to have powerful, resilient civilizations at the global and continental levels, then we must do serious work to make those civilizations more resilient. Entire cities may have to be moved or surrounded by increasingly tall flood barriers. New port systems will have to be devised to cope with changing sea levels. Architects and engineers will have to alter building and structure design to deal with more vicious storms and weather conditions. Farming will have to become more adaptive. The world’s agricultural systems will have to do more with less. Most likely, humans will have to rely more on grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts (which are more efficient ways to transfer energy and nutrients to the human body) and far less on meat (also a mitigation as described above). We may need to expend resources to ensure that our fellow living creatures, which provide essential life support services, do not become extinct. In short, what damage we cannot prevent via mitigation, we will have to learn to adapt to. As such, human civilization will probably need to take more responsibility in both defending itself and the natural world from the harm that is now coming.

Harm

With carbon pollution already reaching dangerous and excessive levels, any choices that do not mitigate (prevent) or help adapt to future climate change result in an increasing degree and velocity of harm. These choices include climate change denial — which not only insanely disputes the basic physical science behind the effect of greenhouse gasses on Earth’s climate but also ignorantly attributes current increasingly severe weather, temperature and sea level rise to a scientific ‘natural variability’ that denial proponents, purposefully or through blatant stupidity, misrepresent and misunderstand. This is not to confuse those who are understandably scared by the force that is climate change and have succumbed to the natural, though in this case irrational, human response to withdraw from and avoid danger. Political climate change denial seeks to exploit this natural human response for short term political and economic gain and, as such, must be viewed as anathema. Human denial and avoidance of harm, however, is a basic instinct-driven response that must be rationally addressed. In the case of harm caused by climate change, the only rational way to avoid it is through mitigation and adaptation. Denial of the physical forces of the universe unleashed by human over-consumption and institutionalized greed, on the other hand, is little more than a withdrawal into the realm of wishful thinking. Denial, in both cases, causes inaction and paralysis, enables the continuation of business as usual, and, therefore, increases harm.

To this point, any efforts to slow down or reduce mitigation efforts also increases the velocity and force of the harm now rushing toward us. Pressures to slowly mitigate and gradually adapt may seem rational at first, but result in a less tenable future long term. Responses need to be measured, organized and swift — like the emergency procession to lifeboats aboard a sinking ship. Irrationally clinging to damaging systems for as long as possible amounts to playing fiddle on the deck as the critical time to find a place aboard a lifeboat trickles away.

Depression is another natural human response to challenges that far exceed the scope of an individual to overcome. In this case, social depression over climate change has manifest in a form of doomerism that clings to the notion that any action in the face of a growing crisis is futile. To the doomers, I would like to say this:

If there is even a small chance that mitigation and adaptation will bring us through the crisis, then shouldn’t we pursue all efforts and make that likelihood as great as possible? What if the British and the French had simply given up in the face of what, to them, must have seemed an invincible German military juggernaut during the early days of World War II (in fact, their early denial that a problem existed at all set up the conditions for this terrible war in the first place)? To the doomers I would say that the more we fail to respond, the worse the crisis becomes. And a crisis always seems most insurmountable at its start and just before creative response is initiated. Though it is true that many civilizations have failed in the past when confronted with problems that are similar to ours and that climate change, especially, tends to crush civilizations by creating problems that are outside of its ability to evolve and adapt, failure to respond almost always ensures collapse. We may argue now that response is too little too late, but we really won’t know unless we’ve expended all efforts. And so all efforts are, therefore, entirely moral and appropriate.

Lastly, a number of entrenched special interests are heavily invested in harm. These include the world’s fossil fuel companies, the industrial meat industries, a number of investment banking firms that support and profit from such activities via financing, and a large supply chain of industries that produce products based on these activities. Since the resources and profits of these industries are, in part, shared with broader society via the stock market and through the production of cheap, easy to access, goods and services, many states, cities and individuals are also, wittingly or unwittingly invested in harm. As such, a turning away from harm will require conscious choices on the part of individuals, cities, states and industries to not only divest in stock portfolios that profit from harm but also to actively change behavior, methods of consumption and materials use. As we begin this process, entrenched industries and individuals that profit from harmful and exploitative activities are likely to dig in and fight every step of the way. They will attempt to deny us product choices via legislation and market dominance even as they attempt to pretend that harm coming from their practices is both natural and inevitable (directly or indirectly enhancing denialism and doomerism). This institutionalized, irrational and entrenched manifestation of human greed represents the center of gravity of harm coming from human systems and, if we can address it, it is likely that both denial and doomerism will fade.

Considering Moral Responses

In the end, any action that delays or prevents a swift, encompassing, and organized response to climate change increases the level of harm that we are in for. Such a choice, whether conscious or not, is essentially amoral in that it reduces civilization’s chance to survive an emerging existential crisis. A choice that eventually results in an escalating level of damage and loss of lives and livelihoods.

So we’ve come to a tough pass and these, whether we realize it or not, are our choices:

1. To prevent and mitigate harm.

2. To do our best to adapt to the harm that is coming.

3. Or to increase the degree and velocity of harm by failing to act.

My best hopes are for your courage to make the just choices for the sake of you, your family, and for all of us. This is our responsibility to ourselves and each other. And the time to act is now, now, NOW.

Open Letter to Lionsgate Films — Let Hunger Games Fans Fight World Hunger!

Dear Lionsgate Films, Executives, Producers, Owners,

We recognize that art has a right to be rewarded — both through purchases of art, and through public acclaim. That said, we also recognize that art has intangible cultural value as a reflection of a society’s hopes, aspirations, fears and, in the case of “Hunger Games,” as a revelation of the threat of world hunger.

There are few greater threats to the lives and happiness of the inhabitants of Earth than world hunger. It is a threat that affects every nation — no matter how rich or poor. And it is a threat that the popular novel “Hunger Games” helped to shine a light on. Inspired by the intrinsic and unique message of this story, the fans of this novel have, they feel, received a call to action and have directly answered that call in order to help the very real people of this world, not the inhabitants of some imaginary future land.

So we are asking that you cease and desist in all letters or other legal action against Hunger is Not A Game. It is a charity organization that in no way competes with or detracts from the potential for film-making profits. To the contrary, the existence of Hunger is Not A Game lends legitimacy to a film that would, otherwise, merely be an expression of entertainment for profit. But, because of the heartfelt action of responsible “Hunger Games” fans, this work of commercial art has been elevated to the level of a public cause for economic justice.

Therefore, we believe, that the myopic special interests of a commercial, for profit, endeavor should not supercede an action in the public interest. Rather, we believe that Lionsgate should embrace, validate, and, when possible, promote the valid action to end world hunger that Hunger is Not A Game represents. We believe, that should Lionsgate act in this fashion, both commercial interests and the public good can benefit. But a commercial interest attacking a public good in pursuit of profits is exactly what one would expect of the oppressive and selfish rulers of the “Hunger Games” world.

Sincerely,

Hunger Games Fans Everywhere

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION:

http://www.change.org/petitions/lionsgate-don-t-stop-hunger-games-fans-from-fighting-hunger

UPDATE:

Lionsgate Films has stopped legal action against Hunger is Not a Game. A victory for all those who oppose hunger everywhere.

 

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

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