Climate Change Displacement Has Begun - but Hardly Anyone Has Noticed

The first evacuation of an entire community due to manmade global warming is happening on the Carteret Islands

Journalists - they're never around when you want one. Two weeks ago
a momentous event occurred: the beginning of the world's first
evacuation of an entire people as a result of manmade global warming.
It has been marked so far by one blog post for the Ecologist and an article in the Solomon Times*. Where is everyone?

Carteret Islands are off the coast of Bougainville, which, in turn, is
off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They are small coral atolls on which
2,600 people live. Though not for much longer.

As the
Ecologist's blogger Dan Box witnessed, the first five families have
moved to Bougainville to prepare the ground for full evacuation. There
are compounding factors - the removal of mangrove forests and some
local volcanic activity - but the main problem appears to be rising sea
levels. The highest point of the islands is 170cm above the sea. Over
the past few years they have been repeatedly inundated by spring tides,
wiping out the islanders' vegetable and fruit gardens, destroying their
subsistence and making their lives impossible.

They are not, as the Daily Mail and the Times predicted, "the world's first climate-change refugees". People have been displaced from their homes by natural climate change
for tens of thousands of years, and by manmade climate change for
millennia (think of the desertification caused in North Africa by Roman
grain production).

Some people
ascribe the fighting in Darfur - and the consequent displacement of its
people - to climate change, as people struggle over diminishing
resources. But this appears to be the first time that an entire people
have started leaving their homes as a result of current global warming.

Their numbers might be small, but this is the event that
foreshadows the likely mass displacement of people from coastal cities
and low-lying regions as a result of rising sea levels. The disaster
has begun, but so far hardly anyone has noticed.

* thanks to Jon Freeman for alerting me to this story

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 The Guardian