Justice and Contemporary Climate Relocation: An Addendum to Words of Caution on 'Climate Refugees'

by Maxine A Burkett | August 10, 2016

This excerpt is drawn from a post originally published on Aug. 8, 2016, by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat.

The idea that climate change is causing migration and displacement is entering the mainstream, but experts have warned against using the term "climate refugees" to describe what we're seeing in small islands, coastal regions, and even conflict zones like Syria.

Geoff Dabelko's 2007 post on climate change and migration was an early and important clarification of this emerging phenomenon. He noted that the term "refugee" is problematic because of limitations under international law. He also noted that migration is multi-causal. In fact, the numerous triggers that collide to spur an individual's decision to migrate make it difficult to peg his or her movement to climate change. That difficulty also means that deriving a number for climate migrants remains elusive. Almost 10 years later, these cautionary words are still relevant.

However, I would argue there are migration and displacement scenarios that are a bit more straightforward now, that beg concerted effort from the policy community, and that underscore the importance of recognizing climate change as a unique, unprecedented, and increasingly formidable trigger.

In their comprehensive policy paper, Protecting People Crossing Borders in the Context of Climate Change, Walter Kälin and Nina Schrepfer identify five scenarios in which climate change may trigger population movements. They are:

1. Sudden onset disasters, such as flooding ...

Unnatural Disasters and Environmental Injustice

by Christine Klein | April 07, 2016
Originally published on OUPblog by CPR Member Scholars Christine A. Klein and Sandra B. Zellmer. The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit's water supply system and switched to the Flint River. Although residents complained about the water's foul taste, odor, and color, officials assured them that the water ...

EPA's New Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice in Rulemaking a Welcome First Step

by Catherine O'Neill | July 27, 2010
The EPA released a guidance document on Monday that promises to integrate environmental justice considerations into the fabric of its rulemaking efforts. Titled the Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action, EPA’s Guidance sets forth concrete steps meant to flag those instances in which its rules or similar actions raise environmental justice concerns. Specifically, the Guidance directs agency staff involved in rulemaking to “meaningfully engage with and consider the impacts on” communities of color, low-income communities, indigenous ...

9th Circuit's Strong Words for EPA's Office of Civil Rights

by Ben Somberg | September 21, 2009
As first reported by Law 360 on Thursday: In a decision reversing a ruling in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a federal appeals court has chastised the agency's Office of Civil Rights for what the court said was its apparent failure to consider alleged civil rights violations in a timely manner. “What the district court initially classified as an 'isolated instance of untimeliness' has since bloomed into a consistent pattern of delay by the EPA,” wrote Judge A. ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

Ristino | Jan 17, 2018 | Environmental Policy

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