The tabloids are fretting as usual over “immigration”, with a significant increase in the numbers arriving from across the Mediterranean. Something that is having a knock on effect at places like Calais. However, as discussed recently by Ellie O’Hagan in the Guardian, the fact is that some of these migrants are fleeing not war, or ISIS but the effects of climate change. A factor that the media seems to be missing.
Now admittedly the number of people we can currently classify as genuine “climate refugees” is probably only a fairly small proportion of those arriving. However, a fact we need to get used to is that this number is going to increase if we don’t do something about climate change urgently….and I mean a lot!
If you think a few hundred thousand refugees is more than we can handle, wait a few years. After sea level’s rise (about 150 million people in Bangladesh alone live only a few metres above sea level) and desertification take there toll we’ll likely be facing tens of millions a year trying to get in.
Now at the moment, the numbers coming in are numbers we can handle. Anyone from UKIP or any other bigot brigade outfits who tells you Britain/Europe/the Third Reich is “full” doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The reality is that by international standards, Europe has a relatively low population density, and the US and Australia are even less densely populated. Even a million extra refugees per year is an increase of just 0.2% in the EU’s population. And the fact is that an ageing Europe needs people coming in, or there will be nobody left working to pay the pensions of the very baby booming bigots voting for far right parties. Similarly, in the US, the anti-immigrant case holds very little correlation with reality.
However, once we are facing refugee numbers in the millions, perhaps tens of millions in a bad year, its not going to be funny any more. Such numbers will indeed be far more than we can handle. And the money it would cost to try and keep them out or pay for relief efforts is almost certain to exceed what it would cost to gradually get off fossil fuels. Its a crisis that could easily bankrupt the continent in the long term.
So rather than getting our knickers in a twist over a couple of fence jumpers at Calais, I’d argue the time has come to take some serious long term action. For the best way to stem the flow of migrants is for the west to quit screwing over other people’s countries.