Climate Refugees: An Urgent International Dilemma Caused by Climate Disasters

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Severe climate disasters have displaced millions of people globally. This paper centers around the following research questions: To what extent is climate change comparable to the five existing standards of defining/accepting a refugee (i.e. race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, and political opinion)? Should climate refugeeism be comparable to these five existing standards, should climate refugees be granted refugee designation? Which countries are responsible for these climate refugees based on the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? Where does the current situation leave the United States, and what are its major implications to U.S. national security and immigration policy? Last, how might future theorizing on climate refugees’ impact, and otherwise shape, U.S. national security and immigration policy? To answer these questions, the research takes a qualitative approach. Specifically, a discourse analysis is conducted on these following sources: a) documents produced during conferences, including the annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences and, b) news coverage pertaining to populations who have been displaced from their home countries due to climate disasters. Such evidence will not only synthesize a collective knowledge about climate refugees, but it will, furthermore, allow the research to identify an existing gap in the literature. As climate change becomes increasingly alarming, it is astounding that an operational definition of “climate refugeeism” has not been arrived at—especially one to be used in an official sense, which might inform international protocols developed by the UNHCR (i.e. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Without a consensus on an operational definition of “climate refugeeism,” the issue of climate refugeeism has not been legitimated. Thus, countries face no obligation to welcome people displaced in light of climate change. Therefore, the climate refugee dilemma requires urgent attention, examination, and consideration. Because there is no definition of “climate refugeeism” in any legal international agreements or protocols, there exists no data for conducting a quantitative analysis. Thus, the paper uses discourse analysis to study this topic. This discourse analysis aims to demonstrate the importance in arriving at a shared understanding of what climate refugeeism is, in acknowledging its severity, and consequently, in resolving to share responsibility for displaced persons across UN member-states. If climate refugees are granted refugee statuses, people displaced by climate disasters will gain access to essential human rights survivals, protections, and services offered internationally that they presently do not hold claim to.

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Climate Refugees; Climate Change; U.S. National Security; Immigration Policy; Migration


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Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


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