On Sunday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, reiterating, for those who haven’t yet noticed, that we are on the brink of epochal changes driven by climate change, and that we must act now to avoid the worst impacts.
The IPCC report is a welcome distraction from the recent hysterical series of immigration-related news headlines. However, the reality is that both climate change and immigration are inextricably linked.
The truth is that if you are worried about migration then you ought to be terrified of what is happening to the global climate. In addition to increasing the devastation caused by extreme weather events including storms, floods, droughts and fires, climate change will affect water supplies, crops and livestock, ultimately affecting food security. For many, the only solution is to move.
Pentagon and NATO military analysts identify climate change as a "threat multiplier" that increases the chances of conflict and will result in large-scale migration. Just how many climate refugees will be banging on the doors of Europe and the United States is difficult to calculate although estimates range from 25 million to 1 billion by 2050.
What’s clear is that the numbers will dwarf current immigration levels - the UK Conservative Party’s election pledge was to limit the issue of new national security numbers (and that’s to legal immigrants) to 100,000 per year.
So what will happen as agricultural ecosystems across Asia, Africa and Latin America are slowly squeezed, hunger fuels conflict and migration numbers gradually swell by more than ten times, or indeed a hundred times?
Voters in Europe and the US already see immigration as a concern. Our politicians, fearful of upsetting some constituents, appear content to jump on the xenophobic band-wagon driven by the likes of Ukip. But no one is talking about climate refugees. Politicians seem unable to join the dots because they have not fully grasped the implication of climate change for migration and for a raft of other policies.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
Ironically in Britain Ukip spreads fear of immigration and yet opposes renewable energy - the biggest weapon needed to fight climate change. But they have succeeded in bringing right-wing populism into Parliament.
Economics and conflict are key drivers for migration - both are made worse by climate change. For many people, life is so hopeless that they are prepared to give up what little they possess to seek a new start for themselves and their families. So far this year, more than 180,000 have made their way to Italy, risking death in epic journeys through Africa and then onward across the Mediterranean on decrepit boats. Others climb walls to enter the Spanish African cities of Ceuta and Melilla; some are camped near Calais as they attempt to get to the UK by any means possible. Across the Atlantic, refugees from the south continue to penetrate the porous US border.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Unless urgent action is taken now our world is heading for a global average temperature increase over pre-industrial level of up to 4 or 5 degrees centigrade. As climate change bites even harder, the tide of refugees will swell inexorably as heat waves and droughts, sea level rise and food shortages get worse. This will drive more and worse conflict and fragile economies will collapse under the weight of having to cope with more severe weather events.
By 2050, when our kids will be running countries, today’s knee-jerk reactions to annual immigration statistics will resemble the focus on brass-polishing on the doomed Titanic.
The only solution is to help communities to stay where they are: if we want to stop the hundreds of millions who basically have no choice but to move north (70 per cent of natural disasters occur in Asia, the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, where many of the world’s most vulnerable populations live), we need to help them cope.
We need to invest ten times more money worldwide, in clean decentralised energy systems, in adaptable or climate-smart agriculture, and in resilient infrastructure and in education. The money’s there: we subsidize fossil fuels with $2tn a year, but according to the International Energy Agency, we don’t need more than half that amount to act now and finance a transition to green growth and green lifestyles.
There is no alternative unless Europeans and Americans want to welcome potentially hundreds of millions of climate refugees to a home near them.