Global Warming and Climate Change – Part 6

POPULATION DISPLACEMENT

People migrate for many reasons, but climate change is already providing
people with plenty of them. A major reason is a lack of resources that leads
to impoverished conditions. Migration is also an option for those looking for
work. As the agricultural sector in the United States is well aware, even
illegal migrations can have a profound impact on a nation and a culture, as
well as a commodity.

DISAPPEARING ISLANDS AND COASTAL AREAS

Tuvalu is a nation in the South Pacific situated atop nine coral atolls that is
swiftly disappearing. Both rising sea waters and repeated storm battering
have left the islands nearly uninhabitable. Salt water has risen into the
water table, killing many of the island's main food crop: coconut. Thought
the nation refuses to give up, its citizens are now being accepted into New
Zealand as environmental refugees.

The islands of Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea were abandoned in 1999 with
ceremony. Even the Marshall Islands, where the US famously tested a great
many nuclear devices have been severely eroded and may have to be
abandoned in the next few decades. Coral atolls are especially vulnerable
because they are supported by living organisms that suffer greatly from
pollutants and grow slowly in the best of conditions. When they die, the
islands crumble.

Coastal areas and barrier islands are also vulnerable. Partly because they
are home to a large portion of the human population. Islands such as the
Maldives and the Atlantic barrier islands are essential parts of hurricane
defense for the coastal mainland. When they're gone, the coasts are far
more vulnerable. Beaches in the US are being worn away faster than is
historically noted, with many famous and developed beaches having sand
brought in at a tremendous “carbon cost.”

These areas are under threat from storm surges, weather erosion, salt-water
inundation and an unprecedented number of large storms. Not only are
South Pacific nations under threat, but some of the major centers of the
world now have plans for flood preparedness. London is a good example of a
city that could be underwater in a century if sea level rises are as swift as
some climatologists predict.

REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH

As with all the physical tumult caused by a warming world, society is already
feeling the impact of climate change. Whether in the form of higher food and
fuel prices or chaotic markets, the old saying is true: the rich are getting
richer. And, it's only going to get worse.

Of course, this has been going on for quite some time, but given that oil
companies are able to reap giant rewards for extracting a substance that
they are not, generally, required to do anything about. Those who have
planned ahead and are prepared for the greatest changes are the only people
who can even hope to emerge from a climate change scenario even relatively
unscathed.

Wealth isn't like energy – it can be created just as it can be destroyed. The
likelihood that real climate change trouble will cause instability in the
currency markets goes without saying. It's already happening due to
fluctuations in the price of commodity goods and banking failures.

It remains to be seen what form wealth will take in the latter 21st century,
though it seems likely that, just as now, energy sectors will continue to be
big winners. Whether this will take the form of large projects or distributed
networks of local even individual power is not clear. Where renewable power
generation is networked, the remains of the 20th century may also retain
some of the accumulated wealth of “the oil days.”

WATER WARS AND OTHER RESOURCE CONFLICT

No matter what side of the political fence one may be on, it now seems
reasonable to say that the conflicts in Iraq, Kuwait, Georgia, Afghanistan and
other oil-rich countries in recent years probably have something to do with
oil. However, actions between nations in those areas is increasingly bound
up in the state of the local water supply.

It is said that about 20% of people on Earth live without regular access to
fresh water. One of the major goals of humanitarian organizations has been
to assist with methods of generating renewable and safe waters for
communities that have already been suffering from water shortages and
bouts of water-borne illness that have been made worse in recent years as a
consequence of climate change.

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