For centuries, the world has known one type of refugee: those who leave their homes behind due to war, violence, conflict or persecution, often risking their lives in the pursuit of safety.
In recent years, the definition has unofficially expanded.
Consider Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that forced 1.5 million people from their homes in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi — about 40 percent of whom never returned.
In Alaska, residents of a small, eroded seaside village are planning to move what’s left of it to safer ground inland — a project that will cost over $100 million, but sea level rise, stronger storms and melting permafrost have left them no choice.
In Siberia, a thawing permafrost there has been called a slowly detonating “methane time bomb” that can be seen from space.
Last August, Death Valley, California, set a world record for the hottest reliably measured temperature in Earth’s history — for the second consecutive year — while, paradoxically, scientists link the cold snap that hit Texas last February to a warming Arctic that has weakened the polar vortex, allowing frigid air to reach farther south.
More than 3 inches of rain pounded New York City last summer during Hurricane Ida, resulting in its first-ever flash flood emergency. And, last month, dry conditions fanned what started as a grass fire into the most destructive blaze in Colorado state history — burning over 1,000 houses to the ground and displacing 35,000 people, many left without a home to return to, now that the dust has settled.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, based in Geneva, Switzerland, 30.7 million people across 145 countries and territories were displaced due to catastrophic weather disasters in 2020 alone. The people left in their wake are now known as “climate refugees.”
On the East End, local environmental experts fear that some East End homeowners could land among them, if the effects of climate change continue to escalate.Read More