How to Help Climate Refugees

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As many as 1 billion people are expected to be forced out of their homes by the droughts, floods, fires and famines associated with runaway climate change over the next 30 years – and they all have to go somewhere. This massive global migration can go one of two ways: either it will be a chaotic mess that punishes the world's poor, or it can be a path to a fairer, more sustainable world. In a new policy paper, a trio of environmental scientists argue that the only way to avoid the first scenario is to start planning now for the inevitable "retreat" from coastal cities. "Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat – moving people and assets out of harm’s way – but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the authors of the paper wrote. Rather than dealing with these forced migrations on a reactive, disaster-by-disaster basis (as many emergency evacuations do now), the researchers propose taking a "managed and strategic" approach to the problem, setting up policies and infrastructure now to help climate refugees transition into new homes and out of harm's way as soon as possible.

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