As climate change negotiations are finishing up in Bonn, and the fate of the world is decided by the content of a text of an international agreement on climate, elsewhere in the world the fate of 9 million war refugees is being decided by forces that they cannot control.
Syrian refugees and the treatment they are getting in countries that they are being forced to flee to is just a sad image of what humanity has evolved into. Forced out of their homes, leaving things, memories and a country they love behind, you can see it in their eyes that their entire world has just crashed.
Three thousand refugees pass through the Balkans every day, among them children, babies, the old and the sick. This week the weather in the Balkans worsened again, with heavy rain and stormy weather and thousands of refugees were stranded at the borders in the Balkans, standing in the mud and completely unsheltered from the harsh weather.
This is not the first time that the Balkans are found in the middle of a war and a serious refugee crisis. We have seen many wars, cried for the deaths of many people and lived through many disagreements. Maybe this is the reason why we understand what it means to be pushed out of your home and depend on people’s sense of humanity.
Climate change is an entirely new crisis, one that could be even worse than all of the wars that this world has ever seen. A rapidly changing climate is creating food scarcity and destroying people’s homes, threatening to wipe out entire countries and forcing millions to leave. Thirty six million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2009 according to the UNHCR. Scientists predict that this number will rise to at least 50 million by 2050.
A rise in global temperatures has caused floods in the Balkans region for the past couple of years. Last year was the worst when heavy rains swept through the region causing floods and landslides in which more than 50 people lost their lives. Many lost their homes and the material damage was estimated at 3 billion euros. It took very little for the Balkan people to become climate refugees themselves.
The reasons for mass emigration of people can be as simple as territory or as complicated as business interests, but it is still people’s lives and livelihoods that are being lost forever.
So it is really frustrating to see that in fact countries such as the USA, Russia and China that are the biggest contributors to climate change are also the ones that are the least willing to try and stop it. To make things worse they also seem to think that they have no responsibility to pay for the damage done to the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change.
Typhoon Haiyan killed 6,300 people in the Philippines in 2013 and the cleanup cost from the damage was 10 billion dollars. That same fiscal year Chevron, the third largest oil company in the world, had profits of 21 million US dollars.
“People are suffering from problems they did not create. We have to make big polluters pay to restore the damage they are doing,” said Climate Justice’s Julie Ann Richards at a Press Conference in Bonn yesterday (Thursday, October 22).
I would say it’s the human thing to do, but maybe that’s just because I come from a country that has seen too many wars, too many horrible destinies. The cold fact is, it could happen to anyone.