Refugee Update

From the BBC: “The number of people displaced by war, conflict or persecution reached a record high of nearly 60 million around the world in 2014, a UN report says. The document by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says the number of people forced to flee their homes rose by 8.3 million from the previous year. The continuing conflict in Syria is seen as a major factor behind the record numbers.” That’s getting close to 0.1% of the world’s population. It’s a horrible figure. North Africans are dying in the Mediterranean while Rohingyas float aimlessly in the Indian Ocean Pacific. In some countries the refugees come close to outnumbering the native inhabitants. The largest contributor to refugee totals is Syria. War is all bloody hell. refugees There are two points to this. First, the BBC correctly identifies the reasons why people flee their homes: war, conflict and persecution. Not on the list? Climate change. People do leave their homes when storms, floods or eathquakes strike, but they overwhelmingly choose to return when the worst of the weather has passed. There may come a day when climate change causes people to flee. That day has not arrived. Second, although I am a Lukewarmer who believes that climate change is real, a threat and should be addressed in the present day, where do our priorities lie? The head of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, Antonio Guterres, says “The drama is that if people think that humanitarians can clean up the mess. It’s no longer possible. We have no capacities to pick up the pieces.” I emphatically do not believe that funding should stop for the study of climate change. But I do believe that a lot of the very expensive climate messaging that is battering the eyes and ears of all in the developed world is a waste of money. That money could be used to help the UNHCR deal with the refugee crisis.


9 responses to “Refugee Update

  1. “I emphatically do not believe that funding should stop for the study of climate change.”

    That’s OK. One step at a time. You’ll get there 😉

    Hint (or just food for thought):

    Research funding should be apportioned in relation (though not necessarily in proportion) to rational expectations of benefit to mankind.

    Note that this is not a question of exactly *what* benefits we expect (the very nature of empirical inquiry being that we can’t say in advance what scientists will discover), but how much we can rationally expect to benefit.

    But who (other than the funded parties themselves) has ever derived or can reasonably be expected to derive *any* benefit from the practice of the profession that passes for the ‘science’ of climate change today?

    • Hiya Brad,

      I think a better understanding of our climate and the forces that impact upon it has huge potential benefits, ranging from more productive agricultural practices to better actuarial decisions in insurance, with a lot more in between. NASA pretty much has justified its entire existence due to lives saved through better forecasting–I think climate science has the same potential.

      On the other hand, papers assuming anthropogenic climate change of 4.5C before talking about the potential for an increased incidence of warts on left-handed redheads could probably be sacrificed for something else…

  2. (That wasn’t meant to be entirely rhetorical btw, Thomas. I’m very open to the possibility that you might know an answer I wasn’t aware of.)

  3. Great Article. What you are pointing out is what I call the opportunity cost of CO2 obsession. The costs range from bloated insurance premiums, to neglected infrastructure, to crisis fatigue, to higher food prices, to higher utility bills, to policy crowding, and finally to people drowning in the sea or wasting away as refugees in camps. One minor correction: The Rohingyas are floating aimlessly in the Indian ocean, not the Pacific.

  4. I landed in a UN financed refugee camp when I was 14. I was told our group was one of the last of a children’s exodus from Cuba to Spain, which was kept secret to avoid having it cut off by the Cuban dictatorship. We weren’t the group called the. “Peter Pan children”. As far as I know that exodus to Spain was always kept out of the media. I guess my background, the days I spent clinging to the camp fence looking at people living normal lives, who in turn looked at us as if we were zoo animals, made me very sympathetic towards refugees like the Syrians and the Rohingyas.

    Having had to deal with this issue since I was 10 (when my second cousin was tossed in jail by Cuban dictatorship police for trying to escape the island), I’ve cone to the conclusion that these problems are better dealt with by emphasizing rewards for governments which behave decently and look out for people. Trying to handle a flood of refugees after hell breaks loose is very inefficient. And today, the main problems are corruption, Hunan rights abuses and overpopulation. Global warming is a complete non issue as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s an interesting topic because I’m a bit nerdy and I like physics and problem solving, but it’s really overrated.

    • Fernando, that is a deeply moving story. You are spot on: The Pope from my perspective (I am ashamed to say) is dog whistling, substituting “the wealthy” for the older less acceptable but ever popular “The Jews” in his disastrous accommodation with the world.

  5. The North Korean rice crop is failing due to drought; at least Syrians can flee.

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