Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

The British are coming

Posted by Andrew Stevenson on March 31, 2009

Most of us involved in climate  research and policy have thought seriously about the impacts of  “climate refugees” from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) or Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the perspective of basic human rights, national sovereignty and international relations. Driven from their homes by rising sea levels that swallow up entire countries or devastating droughts, these thousands or millions of poor individuals could starve, initiate violent conflict or generally disrupt global peace and security. Many developed country leaders are genuinely concerned about this, as they should be. However, there’s one other potentially disastrous source of refugees that has not received much consideration (at least outside of this blog): the UK.

Getting a little too hot and stuffy in old London? Why not set sail (flying’s too expensive because of the EU ETS) for the wild, untamed land of hobbits, orcs, elves and children-biking-friendly-neighborhoods that is New Zealand. Once the British Isles succumb to the rising tides and descend into chaotic, steamy tribal warfare between Manchester and Chelsea supporters, you’ll certainly have the last laugh…on another island.

Anyway, my point is not to belittle the British (as much fun as that is), or make light of the truly dire situation faced by many threatened countries, it is really to call attention to the vast disconnect that still exists between developed and developing countries over the impacts of and solutions to climate change. For LDCs and SIDS it’s not a matter of a slightly higher electricity bill or our inalienable right to consume, it’s a matter of survival. Of course that’s easy to say from a cubicle in Washington, but I think it’s a message often lost in the crunch of “political feasibility”. But god forbid anybody in the US or EU should be asked to give up part of their lifestyle (not “sacrifice” because that’s misleading). I am starting to feel the heat here in DC…Canada anybody???

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