Year 4, Month 12, Day 31: Drink A Cup For Kindness’ Sake…

Aaaaand this letter marks the official end of the Climate Letter Project. That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing more, but that I am freeing myself from the one-a-day demand. I’m putting that daily energy into working on the Climate Message Project, q.v. Happy New Year!

This, from the Express Tribune (Pakistan):

The head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr Rajendra Pachauri, called for greater cooperation between Pakistan and India when it comes to managing our joint water resources (the Indus River System), on his last visit to Pakistan. An Indian himself, he pointed out that our “culture and history has shown us that we can harmonise our actions in consonance with nature”. He also called for greater cooperation in the fight against climate change.

Last week, an India-Pakistan dialogue on energy and climate change was held to discuss this very topic, hosted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad. Experts from India and Pakistan came together to explore ways in which they could jointly hold their governments accountable to what needs to be done about climate change. According to sustainable development expert, Dr Tariq Banuri, who currently teaches at the University of Utah, “the science has become more certain and climate change is more certain now… the massive floods of 2010 were not part of our history; there are changes in weather patterns. Yet, climate policy is paralysed — people just don’t want to act.” There is a leadership vacuum at the global level, where climate change talks have stalled over the principle of equity.

A revision of one that saw publication in Dawn a while back. December 19:

South Asia will confront enormous challenges in the next few decades as the greenhouse effect intensifies, destabilizing weather patterns and making agriculture increasingly unpredictable. Potential strategic and political impacts could easily include bitter resource conflicts and refugee movements that would dwarf the horrors of partition.

The fact that this region has historically contributed hardly anything to the industrial emissions which have precipitated the climate crisis lends these looming disasters a sad irony. Meanwhile, the nations which were major sources of carbon pollution over the past century have been insulated from the effects of their behavior by geographical serendipity.

While morality demands that the industrialized world act immediately to reduce greenhouse emissions, the countries currently bearing the brunt of this human-caused climatic disruption must both reinforce their physical infrastructure (to ensure that humanitarian emergencies are easily resolved), and their diplomatic infrastructure (to ensure peaceful resolutions to the geopolitical crises that will invariably accompany global climate change).

Warren Senders

Year 9, Month 9, Day 13: Sick Comedy

The Hindu (India) notes that climate change is going to bring us some issues with insects:

How will wind strength impact the migration and affect the flight range of mosquitoes? These and several other parameters are being studied at the micro-environmental level by scientists as part of a national project on climate change to forecast spectrum of vector-borne diseases.

With climate change influencing all aspects, including health and agriculture, CSIR through its network of institutions is seeking to develop sustainable mitigation strategies at local level. As part of this, a national project — Integrated Analysis for Impact, Mitigation and Sustainability — has been initiated to leverage multi-disciplinary expertise available at CSIR for developing suitable models by taking into account various geographical variations.

Pesky little buggers, aren’t they? September 6:

A common prognostication from those who are attentive to the geopolitical implications of climate change is that unimaginably large numbers of people are likely to become “climate refugees” in the coming decades. Indeed, as rising sea levels wipe out coastal lands, disappearing glaciers no longer provide sufficient water for agriculture in mountainous areas, and intensifying drought bakes the areas in between, it’s a fair bet that millions will lose their land and their hopes, if not their lives.

But humans are only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg when it comes to climate-caused displacement. Countless plant, animal and insect species are going to be racing to new habitats; these lifeforms, just like human beings, will be struggling to survive on a transforming planet — but their interests aren’t always going to align easily with ours. The increased prevalence of insect-carried diseases like dengue fever is a case in point.

While diplomatic preparations will be necessary in a post-climate-change world to avoid resource wars and border conflicts, it is equally necessary to develop medical communications and infrastructure to cope with these smaller (but equally significant) “refugees.”

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 24: They Don’t Suffer; They Can Hardly Speak English!

The New York Daily News notes the US’ first likely climate refugees:

The northwestern Alaskan village of Kivalina is perched on a remote and narrow strip of sand next to the frigid waters of the Chukchi sea. Its 400 residents are the descendants of an Iñupiat tribe.

And in just 10 years, these folk might just be America’s first climate change refugees.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that Kivalina will be completely uninhabitable by 2025, a victim of melting ice, coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

Until the shopping malls are covered, ain’t nobody gonna give a damn. July 31:

That an obscure town in the middle of nowhere will probably fall victim to planetary climatic transformations does not at first seem like particularly significant news, for the world is full of tragedies. But Kivalina’s plight merits closer attention. Its 400 residents have contributed next to nothing to the greenhouse emissions which may well seal the fate of their ancestral homes. The melting Arctic ice and rising seas are triggered by industrialized civilization’s essentially instantaneous introduction of hundreds of millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere.

These villagers will become climate refugees, with luck moving on to other towns, other lands, other lives, other hopes. Kivalina holds a lesson and a warning for the rest of us. We all live together on an obscure planet in an unremarkable corner of a nondescript galaxy — which we are rapidly rendering uninhabitable. Where shall we send seven billion climate refugees?

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 7, Day 9: Homeward Bound

Brian Schatz is a good guy. US News & World Report:

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, introduced an amendment Wednesday to the pending immigration bill that aims to allow Pacific islanders and others affected by climate change to reside legally in the United States.

“It simply recognizes that climate change, like war, is one of the most significant contributors to homelessness in the world,” Schatz said, according to Think Progress.

If enacted as law, the amendment would allow non-U.S. citizens to seek recognition as “stateless persons,” allowing them possible legal residency in the U.S.

“This amendment to the immigration bill gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion, but not an obligation, to take into account situations in which a person cannot return to their country because it’s uninhabitable due to climate change,” a Schatz spokesperson told U.S. News in an email.

“This is not an abstract issue. Hawai’i has had a long, close and enduring relationship with its island neighbors in the Pacific for which climate change is an imminent threat. For Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands and others, rising seas threaten the very existence of these countries,” said the spokesperson. The amendment’s language does not specify these nationalities.

I ain’t got no home in this world anymore. June 22:

It’s universally human to think of our closest associations before those more distant in time or space. First ourselves, then our families, then our neighbors, then our countrypeople. And for the entire span of human history this has been a sane and logical response to disasters, regardless of their causes.

But we have to to re-imagine these ancient instincts. This makes for heightened understanding between peoples and nations, and widens our network of obligation and reciprocity. The millions of stateless people created by the burgeoning catastrophe of planetary climate change cannot be excluded from our communities; it is the CO2 emissions of the industrialized nations that has triggered their plight in the first place. In these first years of the twenty-first century, we are coming face to face with an irreducible truth: on an Earth made smaller by efficient transportation and instant communication, we are all neighbors; we’re all family.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 6, Day 20: Lie Back And Think Of An Island Nation

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs an AP piece on the reality of climate refugees. Yow:

OSLO, Norway (AP) — About 42 million people were forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters around the world in 2010, more than double the number during the previous year, experts said Monday.

One reason for the increase in the figure could be climate change, and the international community should be doing more to contain it, the experts said.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said the increase from 17 million displaced people in 2009 was mainly due to the impact of “mega-disasters” such as the massive floods in China and Pakistan and the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.

This letter is part of my ongoing “total capitulation to the forces of evil” theme. Sent June 6:

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the climate-change denialists are going to change their tune. As the atmosphere warms it’ll hold more moisture, which means more precipitation: snow, rain, sleet, hail. More extreme weather events will mean more climate refugees; as people’s homes and regional economies are destroyed, they’ll have to move elsewhere. And the GOP, the engine of climate denial, will be faced with the consequences of its anti-science policies: more refugees crossing borders, more emergencies requiring intervention, more jobs lost and economies undermined. But what changes denialists’ minds will be the realization on the part of their corporate sponsors that the multiple crises emerging from a runaway greenhouse effect offer enormous opportunities for graft, corruption and profiteering. If offering a license to steal is the only way to get the world’s largest corporations to bring all their resources to bear on climate change, I’m all for it.

Warren Senders