Climate Protection & Air Quality
Exploration into Climate Migration
If we stare into a telescope of the future of mobility, an often-overlooked aspect is the millions of people who will be — and already are — forced into movement by our changing climates.
This is a brief introduction to an Exploration into Climate Migration — to uncover new ways for mobility providers to help with the damaging human consequences of the climate crisis.
Explorations are how we align our interests, energy and collective imagination to help address urgent societal challenges.
We are in the midst of a crisis of mobility. You won’t find it on the clogged streets of our urban mega centers, nor in rural towns underserved by public transit — it’s in between and on the edges of all these places, along the dangerous, winding routes worn thin by people forced into movement by our changing climate.
In 2009, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees predicted that climate change would become the largest driver of population displacements, both inside and across national borders. If we look around us, we can already see our climates changing in both progressive and devastating ways. Floods, droughts, fires, heatwaves and sea-level rise are putting entire populations at risk, and as a direct result, the International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 200 million people could be displaced worldwide by 2050.
Climate-related displacement, even if temporary, has a profound impact on the lives of individuals, families and communities, and is particularly affecting those on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder who lack the resources to adapt to the impact of a rapidly changing climate. In Humanitarianism and Mass Migration, Fonna Forman and Veerabhadran Ramanathan argue that climate change threatens to unravel many of the public health advances of the last century. The brunt of the harm, they say, is likely to fall disproportionately on the poorest communities.
Climate migration happens slowly, then suddenly, and in multiple phases — each with their own challenges and potentially adverse consequences. How can we ensure that people who are compelled to leave their homes, communities and countries can do so safely and with dignity? How can we provide resources, information, passage and shelter so that no child is lost or hungry while trying to find their new home? How can we support people newly arriving in unknown lands to become active, thriving citizens?
On one hand, the transportation industry is particularly well suited — with its elaborate reach and infrastructure — to aid in the passage and resettlement of people displaced by our changing climate. A green transportation revolution is possible — indeed, it’s always on the horizon — but in the meantime, through innovation, what other roles could mobility providers play in addressing, mitigating or lessening the human impacts of our climate catastrophe?