The Disproportionate Impact of Climate Change on Displaced Populations

By Lucy Fritzinger



Imagine a world in which your house only consists of a 10’x16’ room with five other people (Reid). The persistent leak in the roof reminds you that you have to use the outdoor communal bathroom— only available after waiting in line for 19 of your neighbors to relieve themselves. For more than 880,000 displaced Rohingya refugees temporarily sheltered in Bangladesh, this nightmare is not a figment of the imagination. It’s a daily reality, and increasing weather conditions put them at risk of losing what little they can call their own.


In the past 50 years, the average temperature has risen by 0.5℃ in Bangladesh (World Bank). For the thousands of Rohingya refugees that live in make-shift camps, the rising temperature means increasingly dangerous living conditions. The monsoon season, which previously lasted from June-August, has grown to March-October (World Bank). The increased time period yields more opportunity for destruction. The flimsy structures in which many refugees live are incredibly susceptible to damage. The effects of climate change create a heightened livelihood risk for those already displaced due to religious persecution.


Dangerous climates also force displacement, as seen in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the communities around New Orleans, Louisiana. Poor planning by the federal, state, and local governments resulted in failed strengthening of what would have been life-saving levees (Foner). Faster communication regarding the high levels of aid needed and an earlier evacuation could have saved countless lives. Instead, 1,800 people

lost their lives in the resultant flooding, and more than 1 million people across the Gulf Coast were displaced (CNN). Yet this is a mere fraction compared to the 2017-2022 annual global average of 11 million people who lost their homes to natural destruction (Cohen). By 2042, the estimated number of people displaced due to weather is expected to grow to 200 million (Cohen). With increasing temperatures and rising unpredictably in weather, people around the world are in great danger of climate-generated displacement, especially when they don’t have resources to protect themselves.


Media attention should strengthen its coverage of the climate change crisis and its impact on creating further displacement across the world. Global efforts need to recognize that the “climate crisis is a human crisis” (UNHCR). When an informed public is focused on an issue, change happens. The public puts pressure on governments to make adjustments and send support. Humanitarian aid agencies send in relief, especially if backed by public support and funding. Global aid efforts start with public awareness of an issue.


Weather is often an unpredictable force, but measures can be taken to stop it from creating mass destruction. Improper planning contributes to tragedies. In terms of combatting displacement, preventive action is always better than reactive action. When scientific data from climate change studies holds that more severe monsoons are on the horizon for Bangladesh, as well as other volatile weather conditions worldwide, people should take notice. With more government funding, more stable environments for refugees can be created, and lives will be saved.


 

Works Cited


"Climate Change and Disaster Displacement." The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 2021,

www.unhcr.org/en-us/climate-change-and-disasters.html. Accessed 29 June 2022.


"Climate Change in Bangladesh: Impact on Infectious Diseases and Mental Health." The World Bank, World Bank Group, 7 Oct. 2021,

www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2021/10/07/climate-change-in-bangladesh-im pact-on-infectious-diseases-and-mental-health. Accessed 29 June 2022


Weather Will Displace 200 Million People within 20 Years, Disaster Relief Charity CEO Warns." CBS News, CBS Interactive, 1 June 2022,

www.cbsnews.com/news/extreme-weather-displace-200-million-people-within-20-ye ars-disaster-relief-charity-ceo-warns/. Accessed 30 June 2022.


Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! 4th ed., WW Norton, 2013.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. "Natural Disasters Displaced More People than War in 2013, Study Finds." The Guardian [Kings Place, London], 14 Sept. 2014. The Guardian,

www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/17/natural-disasters-refugee-people-war-2013-study. Accessed 29 June 2022.


Katrina Anniversary Brings Devastating Memories. CNN, 2017. CNN,

www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/08/29/katrina-landfall-orig-lc.cnn. Accessed 29 June 2022


Reid, Kathryn. "Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help." World Vision, 5 Mar. 2021,

www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/rohingya-refugees-bangladesh-facts. Accessed 29 June 2022.