Climate change is our new reality and new responsibility

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The United States now averages $1 billion in extreme weather events every three weeks, a significant increase from every four months in the 1980s.

In 2023, the city of Phoenix experienced 54 consecutive days of temperatures above 110 degrees. The devastating wildfires on Maui are the deadliest in modern history. Vermont experienced its worst flooding in nearly 100 years. And last summer, New York topped the list of cities in the world with the worst air pollution due to smoke from the Canadian wildfires.

Across America and around the world, many of us are beginning to understand that as extreme weather events increase, we may need to move from our homes and communities to find safety.

In a recent survey by Forbes, nearly one-third of Americans cited climate change as a reason for moving. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 3.2 million U.S. adults were displaced or displaced by disasters in 2022. Moving is a way for many of us to adapt to a changing climate.

As we come off a year of record heat and widespread climate chaos, leaders of the United States and other developed countries are watching to see if 2024 will be the year they finally get serious about tackling the climate crisis. . We will act urgently to transition away from fossil fuels in a just way to protect workers and communities and build global resilience to adapt to increasingly frequent and severe climate disasters. Have to. A key part of adaptation is creating safe, orderly and generous migration routes for people displaced by climate disruption.

Some of us know personally how migration can be a life-saving solution. In the 1980s, Ethiopia experienced a deadly famine combined with drought and war. Existing conflicts and repression accelerated as the drought continued and food and other resources became scarce. He remembers seeing people killed in the streets by the government. That’s when he knew he had to find a way to escape. He was uprooted from his home when he was just 15 years old, became a refugee, and was eventually resettled in the United States.

The Horn of Africa region, which includes Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, is currently experiencing the worst drought on record after years of failed rainy seasons. Just as when one of us fled our home country, the effects of extreme climate interact with existing vulnerabilities, such as economic instability and the fueling of conflict, and if people do not move to safety, It may worsen the reason why you should not.

Drought is just one of many climate impacts that are increasingly driving migration. More well-known are the stories of evacuations due to extreme weather events, such as the historic floods in Pakistan in 2022 that submerged one-third of the country. Or the two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central American countries in 2020.

As climate change accelerates, this will mean millions of people around the world will be forced to flee and move in search of safety. As in the United States, most people displaced by climate change will move within their own countries, and some will eventually return home, but many will need to settle further and cross borders to find safety. Dew.

Our immigration policies do not reflect this new reality. People displaced by climate change have no formal protection under U.S. or international law and receive little protection or assistance.

A majority of Americans believe Congress needs to address climate change across the spectrum, from transitioning to renewable energy like wind and solar to strengthening communities’ resilience to climate change through infrastructure investments. We believe we need to do more to support solutions to change. But just like investing in renewable energy and resilient infrastructure, we need to see new transition paths as solutions that leaders must prepare for and support.

In late 2023, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Nydia Velasquez (N.Y.) proposed the Climate Refugee Act, a framework for the kind of climate change solutions needed in this moment. ‘ was reintroduced. This bill welcomes a shared responsibility to address climate change, both through opening up space in the United States for climate-displaced people and investing in global climate resilience.

This bill invests in a whole-of-government approach to making the world more resilient to climate change so people can stay safe in their homes and communities. In particular, it will create a new Coordinator for Global Climate Resilience and direct the development of a 10-year global climate resilience strategy. It would also create a new legal migration pathway for at least 100,000 people each year to move to the United States in safety and dignity if it is no longer possible to remain where they are.

No country is immune to the effects of climate change, but countries in the Global South are contributing the least to the climate crisis and are where the impacts will be felt most severely. The United States is responsible for about 20 percent of all carbon emissions in history and bears a disproportionate responsibility for addressing this crisis.

As we enter what promises to be an unprecedented year in which extreme weather events and the effects of climate change slowly begin to emerge, our nation can do everything we can to phase out fossil fuels, reduce carbon emissions, and slow global warming. You have to do everything you can. Communities here in the United States and around the world are adapting to a world disrupted by climate change, including through investments in resilience and safe migration routes.

From the coast of Louisiana to wildfire-prone regions of California. From the arid corridors of Central America to the disappearing coastlines of Bangladesh, migration is an essential way we adapt to the climate crisis. We have the resources, capacity and responsibility to ensure that we are all safe from the worst effects of climate change.

Congress and the White House must act now to pass the Climate Displacement Act and take this important step toward building a safe and resilient future for all of us.

Tefere Gebre is Chief Program Officer at Greenpeace USA. Nicole Melak is the executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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