Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, mainly caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.
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Thousands of people have died attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico. And the crossing is growing even more dangerous as the climate changes.
U.S. border security policy in the Southwest is designed to deter unauthorized migration at heavily guarded urban entry points. So undocumented migrants with little access to water often spend days on foot in remote areas of the sweltering Sonoran Desert, located in the Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, Baja California Sur, and the U.S. states of Arizona and California.
There’s no question that weather and climate disasters will continue to displace more and more people. In 2021 alone, according to NOAA, 20 billion-dollar disasters of this kind occurred in the U.S., costing $148 billion.
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Scientists expect more and more people to move out of warmer places, leave the coasts and flock to cities that are seeing less severe impacts from climate change. Those places are being called “climate havens.”
After years of record breaking fire seasons in California, many individuals and families are making the hard decision to relocate to areas in the U.S. with decreased risk of severe climate events. According to a study in Climate Change, 57 percent of Americans believe that climate-related weather events will influence their future moving decisions. Many of these “climate refugees”, like Nena and David James and Diana Holt, who requested to use a pseudonym, are looking to the Pacific Northwest as a relatively climate-safe location.
Laura Hinerfeld and her husband, Dale Geist, never thought they’d leave California. But after the Complex fires of 2017 killed 24 people, ravaged 7,000 structures and crept too close to their house in Sonoma, they talked about it for the first time.
For some, these vast numbers conjure cataclysmic images of hordes of desperate people escaping climate hotspots in the Global South, clamouring to cross borders into Europe and the United States. And they’re often accompanied by an important caveat: The worst version of this nightmare scenario can still be avoided if high-polluting countries act now to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We can’t say for certain how many people will be displaced by climate change in the coming years. Some will be forced from their homes by extreme weather events like fires and floods. Others will gradually be pushed out as farmland becomes more arid. One thing we can say for sure – most countries don’t have clear definitions or policies about who is a climate migrant or how to deal with them.
Wildfires. Floods. Hurricanes. For years, the consequences of carbon-fueled climate change have been upending lives and causing people to migrate. And those are just the sudden climate catastrophes.