New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is fighting for “a new kind of refugee – climate refugees.”
Udall declared his concern about the “major and very real crisis” of climate change during his opening comments at an Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, citing recent floods, droughts and other severe weather as his conclusive proof, CNS reports.
Udall, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, chided the Trump administration for “denying climate change is even a major crisis” before attacking Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator who testified before lawmakers Wednesday.
“In fact, climate change is by far the most pressing crisis of our time. People are losing their homes, their land, their farms. We now have a new kind of refugee – climate refugees, displaced from their homes by catastrophic weather disasters like drought and floods,” Udall preached.
“I’m deeply troubled that as acting administrator and now as the confirmed administrator, you are continuing to implement this administration’s devastating environmental agenda.”
Udel then shifted to blame climate change for Hurricane Maria’s nearly 3,000-person death toll, and both droughts and floods that have plagued the U.S. in recent years.
“In the West, we have less precipitation. Rivers and reservoirs are running at historic lows. Dry conditions are creating more wildfire. Look at the historic devastating floods in the Midwest happening as we speak,” Udall said. “Yet, instead of recognizing reality, right out of the gate, this administration began an all-out assault on efforts to fight climate change” by reducing regulations on energy producers and refusing to back the Paris Climate Accords.
“If you don’t change course, this will be your legacy,” Udall told Wheeler, “and I don’t think history will look upon this record very kindly.”
The concept of “climate refugees” isn’t new, but it is gaining momentum after diplomats from around the world met in New York and Geneva last year to discuss how to deal with people who are displaced by severe weather events, NPR reports.
Proponents point to places like Puerto Rico, areas in Africa, South Asia and Latin America, and coastal communities in Alaska and Louisiana losing hospitable land due to desert expansion or rising water levels.
“A World Bank report in March projects that within three of the most vulnerable regions – sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America – 143 million people could be displaced by these impacts by 2050,” according to the news site.
World leaders want to create a way to deal with folks who are forced out because of natural disasters or the changing environment because there’s currently no international agreement to accommodate the so-called “climate refugees.”
The United Nations most recently addressed the issue in an “intergovernmentally negotiated” agreement known as the “Global Compact for Migration” in December.
The compact calls on U.N. members to “better map, understand, predict and address migration movements, including those resulting from sudden- and slow-onset natural disasters, environmental degradation, (and) the adverse effects of climate change.”
The U.N. compact also asks members to “cooperate to identify, develop and strengthen solutions for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin due to slow-onset natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation, such as desertification, land degradation, drought and sea level rise, including by devising planned relocation and visa options, in cases where adaptation in or return to their country of origin is not possible.”
The document is not legally binding, for now.