The problem of rising sea levels and the displacement of vulnerable populations is one that scholars and researchers have addressed from different perspectives. However, one of the problems of wading into this debate is understanding whether the points of view provided by researchers adequately address the problem at hand. This paper provides a synthesis of the ideas of several authors to show that even though the issue of climate change is one that nations can address effectively in different ways to various degrees it is also an issue that can be exploited by the military defense industry, which represents a threat to the application of appropriate climate policy overall.
Whats at Stake?
What is at stake in the issue of climate change is the well-being of ecologically vulnerable countries, whose populations could be displaced as a result of rising sea levels. Many scholars agree that climate change is a problem, but the question is: how best should it be addressed? One thing that some may not realize is that climate policy is capable of being corrupted by third party groups that have their own agenda, distinct from addressing climate change. The defense industry is one such example of a group that can influence this debate for its own benefit. Nations have to be careful about accepting policies that have been influenced by the defense industry while simultaneously realizing that not all nations can address policy in the same ways or to the same extent. Every country can play a part in addressing this issue, but they must be on guard against wolves in sheeps clothing. For that reason, it is important to look at the various scholars who have voiced perspectives on this matter. When taken individually they represent but one view; but when synthesized and analyzed, they offer a much greater understanding of the actual nature of this problem. Examining the evidence, conducting analysis, and framing the argument for why this problem has to be approached carefully should be the goal of all.
As Jolie notes, climate change is already displacing millions of people in ecologically vulnerable regions. She cites a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which pointed out that Bangladesh alone could lose 17.5% of its land mass due to rising sea levels. Jolie goes on to argue that this is an issue that demands international cooperation, and shows that this is already underway: The new Global Compact on Refugees, adopted this year by the U.N. General Assembly, puts forward new international arrangements for sharing responsibility for refugees (4). Bayes Ahmed goes one step further to argue that based on the amount of pollution each country produces around the globe, these countries should accept an equal percentage of refugees displaced by climate change: Australia and the USA each should take responsibility of 10 per cent each of the overall global share of climate refugees, followed by Canada and Saudi Arabia (9 per cent each), South Korea (7 per cent) and Russia, Germany and Japan (6 per cent each) (1). This approach is somewhat similar to that offered by Eckersley; however, Eckersely argues that refugees should have the right to choose their host countries.
Hartmann urges caution on this matter. She points to conflicts in states like Darfur as examples of how the defense industry can spin a power-play into a climate change issue: The construction of Darfur as a climate conflict should serve as canary in the coal mine that something is amiss when environmental determinism overrides serious analysis of power relations (237). She also notes that studies conducted in Kenya and Senegal showed that climate change actually led to positive outcomes in terms of the development of better strategies for managing resources. She references numerous studies, which indicate that there is a rich body of empirical case studies of African agriculture, pastoralism and forestry that challenges conventional neo-Malthusian narratives about population, scarcity and conflict (237). She also references scholars who have…that and various factors, such as politics, conflict, family, economy all factor into peoples decisions to leave their native land. The assumption that people are leaving because of changes in the climate is not substantiated. It may become a problem in the future, as the authors point out, but currently there is not data enough to validate the term climate refugee. Yet the defense industry uses this expression to validate its own defense budget and intervention policies, which can lead to an increase in refugees over time, as foreign interventionism would be the kind of factor that makes people want to leave.
The counter-argument here is that climate change is happening nonetheless and even if it is not the main reason people leave their native lands it could become the main reason soon enough. That is where Kabisch et al. come into play with their recommendation that individual states do what they can to reduce pollution in their own nations through green solutions in urban areas. Such domestic interventions would help to reduce the global accumulation of pollution and thus prevent climate refugees from becoming a real problem. However, to suggest that all nations that produce pollution should accept a correlating percentage of refugees (that are not moving directly because of pollution), as Eckersley recommends, is to gloss over the complexities of what makes people move in the first place.
It is therefore better to implement strategies like those put forward by Kabisch et al. and to urge caution in terms of how climate change and the problem of refugees is approached, as Hartmann and Hingley do. The kind of alarmism raised by Jolie, Bayers and Eckersley may be justified on the basis of future projections but they do not necessarily reflect the reality of the situation as it is today. It is better for nations to do what they can to reduce pollution on their own than open the door for third parties to exploit a situation that has been…
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