In a research paper released last week by climate change guru Dr. James Hansen, he and 16 fellow scientists make the case that warming-induced melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is happening much more quickly than previously anticipated. Needless to say, the idea that parts of Manhattan or Miami could be underwater in as soon as 50 years has sparked a good deal of alarm – and controversy, as the tricky business of climate modeling always does. But the fact that scientists still can’t say with certainty exactly how soon, or under what warming scenarios, major changes to the climate system are going to occur has made one thing evident: we’re simply not prepared – physically, psychologically, or policy-wise – to deal with that reality anytime soon.
Each year, millions of people across the globe are forced to flee disasters, primarily floods, storms, and other acute, weather-related events. As the effects of global climate change continue to unfold, more extreme weather, growing food insecurity, and other drivers of displacement will only increase. Of utmost concern is how climate change will affect low-lying island nations who face increased storm surge, salt water inundation of fresh water resources, and sea level rise, threatening their very existence.