Teach Climate

October 7, 2010
By: Kristen Poppleton, Senior Director of Programs

Climate Change and Migration

As those of us in Northern regions bid farewell to migratory species for the winter, and those of you in Southern regions are welcoming our summer wildlife, the topic of migration seemed like pertinent topic to write on today.  Climate change is clearly impacting migratory species.  Robins are being seen in the Arctic regions, and some butterfly species are emerging weeks earlier. However, while birds and butterflies are generally what comes to mind when we think about the affect of climate change on migration, another population often forgotten is humans.  climate.2008.138-f2
In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption.  (Migration and Climate Change)

Recently, Professor Norman Myers of Oxford University argued that ‘when global warming takes hold there could be as many as 200 million people displaced by 2050 by the disruptions of monsoon systems and other rainfall regimes, by droughts of unprecedented severity and duration, and by sea level rise and coastal flooding’… This would mean that by 2050 one in every 45 people in the world would have been displaced by climate change.  (Climate Change Impact and Forced Migration)

The impact of climate change on human populations provides us as educators with the opportunity to include discussions of environmental justice and ethics in our classroom.  What constitutes right and wrong?  How do our actions affect people living on the other side of the world and what is our responsibility?  Bring the discussion to a local level.  What populations in our own community are disproportionately impacted by climate change’s impacts?  Why and what can or should we do?

(Here comes the flood Janos Bogardi & Koko Warner, Nature Reports Climate Change (2009) Published online: 11 December 2008)