Is Climate Change A Driver of Humanitarian Crisis Or A Mere Fad?

This report will explore the query as to whether climate change is a driver of humanitarian crises or a mere concurrent phase of the global community social trend. Humanitarian crises occur when a society is unable to effectively adapt with the social, economic and environmental strains upon it and such inability results in dire consequences, affecting populations in varying degrees. The reality of climate change has overcome the global community in the wake of the merciless Hurricane Irma in the US. Humanity, whether acknowledging it or not, has experienced the warming of continents after the last ice age as the human race head from hunter-gatherer to settled agriculturalists and industrializing to urbanite leaving behind an unbearable eco-footprint on mother nature. The effects of which the world is now feeling the weight. Although the gradual warming of the planet is an undeniable statement of fact, one may query whether it drives humanitarian crisis or merely a growing social phase triggered by globalization.

The case for climate change as a main driver of humanitarian crisis stems from the correlation between an environmental condition and the subsequent human adaptation to such event. For instance, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the USA resulted in the most calamitous and widespread drought in North American history. Such an environmental condition arguably resulted in a destructive humanitarian crisis as crops were not raised and the North American population could no longer sustain themselves, leading to mass migrations and in turn, demise for the livelihood of the areas affected. It is argued that the environmental circumstance, such as the occurrence of natural disasters, has increased the risk of violent conflict, both internally and externally. The case is furthered with the notion that national prosperity is closely linked to civil rest. For instance, in Africa, national prosperity suffers from civil unrest when the population is able to earn from their crops and harvest their agricultural livelihood. The downturn in agricultural production and pastoralists result in the displacement and stagnancy of not only the farmers but the population which depends on the commodities. Now, the strain of climate change reverberates throughout the world as a result of globalisation since the world is inherently more intermarried than ever before. Thus, the merciless wrath of mother nature on one side of the world is also felt by the population from the other side of the world.

However, a contrary case may be made to underline the notion that climate change is merely an innovation of modern society as the developing world becomes increasingly accustomed to comfort so that any slight change is rejected. One may argue that the global village is quickly becoming a place of comfort whereby humanity relishes in a world of complacency and what used to be a slight inconvenience is now a major issue. For instance, the tragedies of Hurricane Irma, one thousand years ago may not have been significantly felt by the global population and would merely be considered the norm or just mother nature ‘acting up.’ However, Hurricane Irma has gained the attention of the world, resulting in the international community helping the US and praying for mother nature’s mercy. Such contrast evidently illuminates the notion that the developing and globalized world has lost a sense of resilience as a result of the growing complacency in luxurious lives and an increasingly globalized world. Thus, it is arguable that the humanitarian crises are mere illusory consequences of the world’s deteriorating tenacity and resilience against climate change; an enduring global issue plaguing humanity since the ice ages.

In sum, historical evidence such as the Dust Bowl and its correlating civil unrest as a result of the population’s inability to cope with the unpredictable environmental conditions pose a more convincing case. The population will not be disgruntled if prosperity is guaranteed through agriculture and predictable environmental conditions.

Karen Cheung