Tuesday, October 01, 2013
A Court Down Under Deals with Climate Change Migration
A New Zealand court will hear a refugee-status claim from a Kiribati man who contends he had to flee not persecution but climate change.
Kiribati is a low-lying atoll in the South Pacific that will be among the first to be inundated by rising sea levels. There's simply not enough high ground to support the population.
The 37-year-old and his wife left his remote atoll in the Pacific nation of Kiribati six years ago for higher ground and better prospects in New Zealand, where their three children were born. Immigration authorities have twice rejected his argument that rising sea levels make it too dangerous for him and his family to return to Kiribati.
Legal experts consider the man’s case a long shot, but it will nevertheless be closely watched, and might have implications for tens of millions of residents in low-lying islands around the world. Kiribati, an impoverished string of 33 coral atolls about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, has about 103,000 people and has been identified by scientists as among the nations most vulnerable to climate change.
Yes the case will be watched closely elsewhere, especially in the United States and in Europe, two places facing the very certain prospect of waves of climate change refugees. Europe already has a problem with human migration out of Africa. Military planners in the United States foresee a similar migration threat from Central America. The irony is that the countries that perceive themselves most threatened by climate change refugees tend to have been the major emitters of greenhouse gases that rendered the migrants' homelands uninhabitable.