Desertification and climate change will exacerbate future refugee crises

The government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis has been rightly criticised as an incredibly poor reaction to an increasingly desperate situation, but this may only be a glimpse of the catastrophic displacement of people that our current climate situation is quickly moving us towards.

In a report published by the Economics of Land Degradation, a worldwide initiative lead by 30 research groups earlier this month, it was stated that desertification – a kind of land degradation caused by climate change – is on track to create an astonishing 50 million refugees within the next decade.

The most vulnerable people in developing parts of the world are the most at risk, yet they are also those whose contributions to climate change have been the smallest. It is the responsibility of the world’s most powerful countries to ensure once and for all that climate change is properly recognised as the looming disaster that it is, and to prevent unprecedented numbers of people losing their own land

Desertification, exacerbated by pollution and deforestation, will threaten the availability of clean water, food supplies and agriculture, and ultimately render land unliveable. These conditions will surely create intense political conflict.

There is evidence that the drought in Syria between 2007 and 2010, which caused the displacement of almost 1.5 million people was a contributing factor to the brutal civil war and political problems that lead to the current catastrophe of staggering numbers of refugees. With the planet only growing warmer and the response to this threat still overwhelmingly inadequate, the ramifications will be so profound as to be almost unimaginable, and those in developing countries are most at risk.

It is the job of the world’s richest, and therefore the most culpable countries, to take responsibility for our contributions to the threat of climate change; a huge undertaking that is well overdue. This will require a huge upheaval of the way our current societal structure operates.

The extent of the problem is still being ignored by governments and companies who profit from the abuse of the planet’s resources. There needs to be a huge reduction in the use of fossil fuels, investments in clean energy, and reparations should be paid to at-risk countries that need help in adapting to the environmental problems that will have a huge impact on people’s ability to simply survive there.

It is vital that the UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Paris this year, fully acknowledges the significance of this threat and ensures that plans that will realistically combat it are set in place.The refugee crisis we are currently facing is horrific and requires more of our country’s aid than our government is willing to offer. But it may only be a glimpse into a future crisis that, while tragic and catastrophic, may still be within our power to avoid.

However, the effort this will require will be monumental and must begin as soon as possible.

The predicted 50 million people who will be displaced if we fail to stop the temperature of the planet from rising any further deserve help and safety. Climate change may currently be easy for us to ignore, but in the coming years the destruction of agriculture and an unprecedented number of refugees will not be so easy to overlook.

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