Forest fires and floods trigger “local weather migration” in Canada – Kelowna Capital Information
A series of record-breaking disasters occurred in the summer of 2021.
Forest fires raged in Greece, Turkey, the United States and Canada. Floods have struck Western Europe and China, killing hundreds. Unprecedented rainfall on the summit of Greenland also triggered massive ice melts.
The publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth Assessment Report has confirmed our worst fears about man-made climate change. The report predicts a worst-case scenario of 4.5 ° C warming by 2100.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, called the report “a red code for humanity”.
And he’s right, the report warns a strong warning: “Unless there is immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to nearly 1.5 ° C or even 2 ° C will be unattainable.”
Climate change is already affecting all regions of the world, and the changes are expected to be widespread, rapid and amplified. The results of the IPCC assessment will likely ask many Canadians what this means for Canada.
An influx of climate refugees?
Following the release of the IPCC reports, headlines such as “Historic human tsunami likely in Canada’s future” and “The great climate migration is happening and you might be the next to move” were headlines.
A Vancouver Sun article used unreliable estimates of the number of “climate refugees” to make its statement. The article read, “By 2050 there may be up to a billion environmental migrants,” a statistic that is often misquoted and often attributed to the United Nations International Organization of Migrants (IOM).
In a 2014 IOM report that looked at estimates of climate or environmental migrants. There is “great uncertainty about the numbers” and noted that the forecasts for the number of environmental migrants fluctuate widely – up to a factor of 40 – or between 25 million and a billion.
Structuring an article on the influx of climate refugees could scare some Canadians. However, the reality is that the majority of displaced people do not cross borders and one of the largest categories of displaced people are the internally displaced.
This suggests that those displaced by the effects of climate change are likely to be internally displaced as well.
Climate migration within Canada
Another common climate change problem for Canadians is climate migration within our country.
Climate migrants are people who are displaced by forest fires or floods or who move away from disaster-prone regions. One headline reads, “Climate displacement is a growing problem in BC as extreme weather forces residents out of their homes.”
Many saw the destruction of Lytton, BC by forest fires this summer as an example of what our future holds if serious action is not taken to reduce the effects of climate change. As the frequency and intensity of disasters increase, the idea of escaping the effects of climate change seems more real. And for some it has already happened.
In 2019, Georgia Fisher told the National Observer, “I just moved east after about 15 years in Alberta with my partner and young daughter … the smoke.”
Moving for climate change
For Canadians looking to move proactively, the environmental policy and sustainability of their new home will be an important factor.
An August 16 survey by the Angus Reid Institute of a representative sample of 1,511 Canadians found that 76 percent of Canadians believe environmental and sustainability are a priority when deciding where to live, with 45 percent calling it essential or high view priority.
People in British Columbia, Ontario, Québec and the Atlantic provinces were more likely than people who live on the prairies to prioritize environmental policy and sustainability when choosing where to live.
Age groups also differed – 19 percent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 said that an area’s environmental policy and / or sustainability is a major priority when considering where to live, while those above 55-year-olds were more likely to state that it was a high priority (34 percent).
The implications of these findings
What do these findings mean? Stronger policies to combat climate change and promote green jobs are called for. Interest groups are calling on political parties to stop working in the interests of the oil and gas industry and work for Canadians instead.
In response to the IPCC’s sixth assessment, the Liberal government argued that the proceeds from the Trans Mountain pipeline will help Canada meet its climate goals. Scientific research into the financial implications of divesting fossil fuels has shown that divestment will not cause investors any financial harm.
While the fight against climate change can begin at home through recycling programs and sustainable shopping, it could soon move to cities and towns where a more sustainable lifestyle is possible. While academic studies are lagging behind on whether climate migration is inevitable in Canada, forest fires, floods and other disasters are already forcing people to flee.
We have to act quickly, politicians have to implement an environmental policy that fulfills the desire of their constituents to live in a community with good environmental policies and sustainability practices, or they will look elsewhere.
—Yvonne Su, Assistant Professor in the Department of Equity Studies, York University, Canada. This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.
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