Congressional Research Service cites climate as a contriibuting factor to the migration at the southern border.

This entry was motivated by the failure of the US media , in my experience. to acknowledge that some of the refugees arriving  at  the Texas boarder may  have been created by climate change, .a. phenomenon predicted by the  Army War College,

I  begin  by saying what I say to any group or students who I suspect may not  agree with me  on these subjects,

I am not expecting you to agree with what I say because I said it. I am trying to engage in a critical exchange. I have given students who disagreed with me an A if they engaged in critical dialogue with me.. In addition I  often learn things from people who disagree with me.

While serving as Program Manager for UN Organizations at US EPA during the  Clinton Administration, I was invited in 1997 to participate in war games being conducted by the US Army War College about parts of the world that could raise national security threats triggered by social disruption from climate change. One region the Army War College identified during these war games as being a potential source of global disruption was the drought prone regions of Syria. In 2007, a climate change induced drought began in Syria which lasted past 2010 and created 1.3 million refugees who eventually destabilized large parts of Europe.

The entry  will use the term “refugees” to apply to all climate induced displaced persons although under international law the term “refugee” does not connote all displaced persons, but only those who flee their nation because of fear of persecution or violence.  A “refugee” is defined as a person who has crossed an international border “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (1951 Convention 0n the Status of Refugees: Article, 1). In some contexts, the definition extends to persons fleeing “events seriously disturbing public order.”  All climate change refugees are not covered by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which protects people who have a well-founded fear of persecution on racial, religious or other grounds. Therefore, all people displaced by climate change impacts can’t apply to be treated as a refugee by countries they approach, under current law. This is a problem  that needs to be addressed as part of the solution to this threat. In fact we will argue that the climate/refugee problem is another threat that cant be solved at the national level alone.

One region the Army War College also identified during these 1997 war games  I. attended as being a potential source of global disruption was the drought prone regions of Syria. In 2007, a climate change induced drought began in Syria which lasted past 2010 and created 1.3 million refugees who eventually destabilized large parts of Europe.

The Army War College also during this time identified three countries in central America, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as vulnerable to climate change induced destabilization particularly from agricultural areas which were at risk from drought, The Army War College said during that time that drought may not have always created the refugees in this area, but  drought might prevent refugees fleeing social and environmental conditions in other areas form staying there as they otherwise might have..












Climate change impacts have created and will continue to adversely affect refugees around the world. These harms include sea level rise, glacial melting, changes in precipitation which causes flooding, drought, which results  in loss of drinking water, famine caused by drought, storm damage from extreme weather events, unbearable heat waves, wildfires, increases in the intensity of tropical storms, increases in degradation of ecological systems including plants and animals on which people and animals depend, the melting of ice masses which affect water supplies, and the degradation of carbon sinks including forests. plants, and the acidification of oceans.

 In 2008, the Army War College also a published a 466 page report which extensively described parts of the world that might create national security threats for the world due to their vulnerability to climate change impacts and their potential to cause conflict.  (Pumphrey, 2008).

As global temperatures continue to rise, hundreds of millions of people could struggle with floods, deadly heat waves, and water scarcity from severe drought, the Army War College report said.  Crop failures could become more widespread, putting families in places like Africa and Asia at far greater risk of hunger and malnutrition. People unable to adapt to the enormous environmental shifts will end up suffering unavoidable loss or be forced to flee their homes, creating massive dislocation on a global scale.

We begin with acknowledging the enormity of the challenge of refugees on the Texas border even before considering the role that climate change will play in increasing the number of refugees.US

The number of refugees on the Southern border continues to increase


The increasing number of refugees on the Texas Border come from numerous countries around the world that are too far away to expect Americans to know the forces which contributed to them becoming refugees. All of this makes knowing what role climate change had in producing refugees more difficult.

For months I have been perplexed given the enormous media and political attention to the refugees on the US Texas Border why there has been no media discussion discernible to me about the role of climate creating some refugees. The answer I have gotten from several respected media associates was they could not distinguish how many refugees on the US Southern Border were fleeing from social turmoil and violence and those fleeing due to climate impacts.  I asked a  member of the Army War College who i discovered was working on these issues and she referred me to a conclusion on this issue by the Congressional Research Service which concluded as follows:And so climate change is a factor affecting  refugees on the southern US border.

For some refugees that are created by climate impacts, the connection is obvious.

Sea Level Bangladesh

Male, Maldives

Places like Bangladesh and Male in Maldives are obviously vulnerable to climate induced sea level rise particularly given that the minimum sea level rise predicted by NOAA is 2 feet by 2100 and  far  greater predictions are becoming more frequent. Rising seas already have created a refugee crisis in some small island states including  Kiribati where an inhabitant who had to leave storm surges petitioned the New Zealand government tor refugee status which was deniied.

The US climate media contains frequent references to reports of more dire predictions of future sea level rise. Both Greenland and Antarctica are now viewed being to beyond the point of no return, meaning if is too late to prevent eventual total meltdown. This means eventual sea level rise of  186 of feet of sea level rise at minimum not to include increasing temperatures that are guaranteed as reflective surfaces diminish in  a warming world.



All of this means if a politician is concerned about refugees on the Texas border he or she should support policies to reduce CO2 emissions to net zero ASAP.

I also attribute  the reluctance of politicians to make the connection between  refugees and climate change is due to the fact that many academics and NGOs, I have found ,often don’t  know how climate change is radically different from other environmental problems they have experience with.  

These features include CO2 emissions mix well  in atmosphere and are long lasting with about 80% being removed by carbon sinks in about 200 years.  Yet some stay in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years potentially contributing to climate change harms for a very long time.

The following image depicts the reality that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 rise as CO2 emissions rise. The policy implication of this fact is that all CO2 emissions are making climate harms  worse globally for as long as the CO2 emissions are raising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Notice as CO2 emissions around the world rise, atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise globally thereby potentially affecting climate harms worldwide potentially for a very long time. This feature makes common assessment tools used to judge the acceptability of projects such as cost-benefit analysis or risk assessments, ineffective, or misleading to determine the acceptability of projects.

I and my coeditor Katherine Gwiazdon working with 19 authors from around the world produced 40 chapters on ethical issues raised by climate policy just submitted to our publisher Routledge a Handbook on Applied Policy,  Eventhough the authors were experts in their field, several initially got the ethical issues wrong because they ddin’t understand that climate change has scientific features that need to be understood to effectively evaluate policy..

The policy reason for identifying the ethical issues that arise in  climate policy is if nations make decisions primarily on the basis of economic self-interest. such decision will likely harm other nations and people

Anyone who would like to obtain a copy of this Handbook contact me at DABrown57@gmaiill,com and i will make more info about the book and how to order it in the near future

Because the atmospheric CO2e concentration effects almost all countries, if a nation  does not reduce its emissions to its fair share global emissions necessary to prevent harm they will very likely harm other nations.  Yet I have rarely have heard US citizens acknowledge the potential harm we are doing to other countries if our GHG emissions reduction target is inadequate. I believe that many citizens and environmental professionals err on their policy recommendations sometimes because they assume that climate change is like other domestic environmental problems they have experience with. In air pollution if policies extinguish the air pollution plume that is causing the harm the harm is usually adequately dealt with but If  CO2 emissions are reduced to zero,. elevated atmospheric concentration remain.which continue to create warming impacts which reduce the albedo or reflective properties of  snow or ice which adds to the warming   Because additional warming may be enough to trigger tipping points which speed up warming to potentially out of control accelerating warming, a strong case can be made the world needs to achieve net zero CO2e emissions ASAP.

In any event, to prevent warming from creating additional refugees the world needs to move to net zero carbon emissions. ASAP..

While serving as Program Manager for United Nations in EPA Office of International Activities under the Clinton administration., I was asked in  i997 by the US State Department to co-chair for the US with a colleague from the energy department a negotiation taking place in the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.  This negotiation was asking nations to agree that the “balance of the evidence suggests a discernible human influence on climate.” At the conclusion of these negotiations in 1997 every country in the world that was seated in the UN CSD at that time, which was approximately 160 countries, agreed with this statement including Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries.  This statement had already been agreed to by all nation’s IPCC scientists in 1995. These countries included nations that had historically sometimes opposed international action on climate change including United States and OPEC countries such as Saudi Arabia. The IPCC has increased its confidence in human causation in every subsequent report along with all academies of sciences.

The reason for the universal international agreement among nations that humans are responsible for the climate change the world is experiencing is that the evidence of human causation is extraordinarily compelling despite the fact that the Earth has experienced warming and cooling cycles during Earth’s history in responses to natural forces. The confidence of human causation is very high because among other evidence  (1) scientists can predict how the Earth will warm up differently if a layer of GHGs approximate about 12 miles into the atmosphere warms the Earth compared to how the planet warms if the natural forces that have caused warming in the Earth’s historical heating and cooling cycles.  These differences along are with several lines of evidence relevant to the role of GHG in warming are referred to as “human fingerprints.”    Scientists have also compared the temperature forcing of human GHGs to forcing of the natural causes of climate variations in “attribution studies,” and have concluded that only the forcing from human sources can explain the recent rise in global temperatures. undefined

The above chart compares the warming expected from human
activities in red, to the warming expected by natural forcing in blue, to the actual observed warming in black. This comparison is very strong evidence for attributing recent warming to human causation.

My experience in teaching in 36 countries and negotiating climate issues for the US at the UN if one respectfully walks students or government officials through this information they are almost always convinced of human causation  I use here the fingerprint and attribution evidence because I have found it more compelling than more abstract modelling information that is otfen explain human causation

Since I  am on record for critically examining US climate policy through an ethical lens, as well as with colleagues 14 countries with  significant  fossil fuel interests, (Brown, Taylor, 2014) I  was surprised when the G. W. Bush State Department  invited me to make a presentation on climate ethics to the Scottish legislature as they were debating a national GHG emissions target. When I arrived at the new Parliament Building in Edinburgh, the debate was already underway with a parliamentarian arguing that Scotland should set a tough target because Scotland owed it to the rest of the world.

Shortly thereafter Scotland set a target of net zero ghg emissions by 2045

This was an argument I have never heard in the US.   Yet an argument which was ethically and legally required by the “no harm” rule which all countries agreed to in the Preamble of the 1992 UN Climate Convention. (UNFCCC, 1992, Preamble)

.I believe many US citizens largely ignored the no harm rule because there was no way of adjudicating damages under international law,  Yet that is no longer the case because the international community at the recent COP 27 meeting in Egypt has agreed to create a Loss and Damages mechanism   See UNEP 2022 for an explanation of the loss and damages mechanism. The details of the loss and damages mechanism will not be finalized at the earliest until the conclusion of the of COP United Arab Emirates which ends in December 2023. Although this fund is sure to be controversial, as lies and untruthful claims about it are already circulatinghe Army War College report suggests it is in the US interest to  provide some financial remuneration to those harmed by forces that create refugees

The esteemed political theorists Hannah Arendt claimed that lying was always part of politics. often on both sides of an issue,  Furthermore, anyone whose power is threatened would lie.. Also people on the same side of the issue will often pass the lie on without critical thought.

And given the ignorance about this  I suspect the challenge will be to get citizens to understand the truth

The United States has for several decades has needed  to commit  to achieve a net is  zero target to do what is required of it under the Paris Agreement warming limit goals. It also required o not contribute to increases in the atmospheric CO2 concentrations which are causing the numerous climate impacts we are already experiencing. Instead the US emissions rose in the last two years,1.3 % in 2022 and 6.5 % in 2021, Scientific America, 2023,

The PBS Frontline Series on the Power of Big Oil  includes descriptions of Oil Company lobbying successfully undermining several presidential efforts to set a US GHG target at zero.

Also all nations needed to achieve net zero missions to maintain hope of preventing further degradation of tipping points. Although these issues have rarely been part of the dialogue visible in the US media in my experience other than in the most superficial way.

Now however there is a growing awareness, it seems to me, that all nations need to agree to a net zero GHG target by the next COP in United Arab Emiiates if there is any chance of preventing catastroph

Some hope is that a growing number of nations have agreed to net zero and a half dozen or so have committed to a legal duty to achieve these targets .I strongly recommend that nations combine a net zero target with making the target legally enforceable because  there are many examples around the world where a  nation has adopted a method to achieve a target which is not achieved in time.

The Race to Net Zero
The barrier to the US adopting such a net zero target is likely to be that there are still many deniers of human of climate change in the US Congress.  According to the Center For American Progress there were 139  members of Congress who are  still deniers of the human causation of climate change in the most recent US Congress
I attribute this to the success of the notorious climate change disinformation campaign which I  have written about extensively. on this website, See, Why Exxon’s and Other Fossil Fuel Companies’ Funding of the Climate Change Disinformation Campaign Cannot be Excused As an Exercise in Free Speech but Must be Understood as Morally Reprehensible Disinformation.
I was recently asked by UNESCO to comment at the recent Egyptian UNFCCC COP why ethical rules that nations agreed would guide their climate policies did not get traction
The rules were the precautionary principle, equity, no harm, and human rights law. As I reviewed my experience with governments on these issues. I concluded the disinformation campaign the extent that most of the legislators are still climate deniers.
I am constantly stunned by how many people who seem to be well educated dont seem to know there is a consensus among governments world-wide that climate change is human caused. The problem in the US is that the fossil fuel funded disinformation campaign has worked to undermine citizens support for aggressive climate change reductions though well funded claims that climate change is  a hoax.
The US media coverage of issues although more frequently covering  the most horrific expectations of climate frequenr impacts as we should expect but is not covering a host of issues about policy that people need to understand to critically evaluate lies of the disinformation campaign.  The media understandably calls on experts in science and economics to respond to the  scientific and excessive cost issues framed by the opponents of climate policies. Unfortunately technical experts often don’t know some of the issues that need to be responded to such as what does “equity”: require or what does the precautionary principle require if one cant establish quantitative risk by standard measurement methods,  or why did IPCC seem to underestimate when when some tipping points would tip.
Every environmental lawyer knows that governments frequently encounter serious threats for which the government cant establish a quantitative risk because the complexity of the problem or not enough time to do the testing required. One example to establish the dose level for certain toxic substances that  would create one  in a million risk of cancer, a goal had been established law, it would require that  a million rats to be tested. For this reason law in Pennsylvania required that the government’s environmental  standards not be arbitrary and capricious after the government responds to comments. The EU has adopted the precautionary principle as a standard practice but American scientists are frequently  often not aware of this nor that the precautionary agreed to in the 1992 climate treaty  not only prohibits nations from using uncertainty as an excuse for complying with its obligations but  requires governments to use precautionary science if riisk cant be determined by normal experienced based deduction of risks.
Although there are 20 US governments who are suing the fossil fuel industry for the climate change disinformation campaign for damages.(Frontline), I believe we should seek money for a massive public campaign to educate citizens that the there is an international consensus among governments  since 1997 including the OPEC countries that climate change is human caused that  has existed since1997. All countries agreed to be bound by the precautionary principle in the 1992 climate treaty because it easy to defend but unfortunately many scientists are not aware of it.   Most 
climate scientists are not aware that who should have the burden of proof and what quantity of proof should satisfy the burden of proof is not a value neutral scientific question but an ethical issue.
Most environmental scientists in my experience are aware that the degree of proof established by most scientific disciplines to establish causation usually based on 95 % is designed to prevent false  positives but are not aware that ethically there is widespread agreement that this is not appropriate for very dangerous threats.

UNEP, 2022. What you need to know about the COP27 Loss and Damage Fund



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