Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. The pressure is most on developed countries to do something about it because our countries are most responsible for the warming climate. However, we do not share an equivalent burden of climate repercussions. Developing countries have limited abilities to respond to climate change impacts, and have many citizens that are particularly vulnerable. The WHO estimates that climate change will add approximately a quarter million additional deaths per year by 2030 from spreading disease, famine, and heat stress.
Developed countries can assist developing countries to address climate change in a few main ways, mostly through foreign aid money, the sharing of technology, and government acceptance of displaced climate migrants. Often when foreign aid increases, there is less public support of immigration from that area. Other factors like similar cultures, distance, and racial makeup also have an effect on aid relationships between countries.
Displaced people are not a new phenomenon. People have been moved from their homeland since ancient times, for many different reasons. Climate change and environmental degradation have always been contributing factors to migration, but it is becoming more common as the climate rapidly changes. A large obstacle in climate change is the concept of “othering,” or thinking of populations of people as separate from our own groups. This causes better-off people to disregard the problems of people of another group as less important or as a justified sacrifice for their own way of life. This also contributes to the rejection of climate migrants into less vulnerable areas. Communities are more likely to accept climate migrants in smaller numbers rather than large numbers and will welcome people from countries that share ideals, vote similarly, and import goods from their home country or district.
While people generally think of climate migrants as having effects in large numbers, even relatively small movements or small numbers of migrants can have a large effect on political landscapes. This often happens after catastrophic events like hurricanes, wildfires, or floods. As people flee affected areas to nearby ones, they change the local politics in incalculable ways, swinging districts both left and right. In order to help slow climate change, we have to be aware of how our governmental policies interact with those in other countries and advocate for social justice and equality to be included in our policies around the world.