Teaching Science

Jul 2023

Climate Change Refugee Story

As the climate changes and more of the planet becomes uninhabitable, the number of refugees will increase. Some projections put the number at over a billion by 2050, although these rely on fairly conservative estimates for climate change so the numbers may well be higher. According to the UN Refugee Agency,

Climate change is the defining crisis of our time and displacement is one of its most devastating consequences.

The past nine years were the warmest on record. Climate-fuelled crises are already a devastating reality, forcing people to flee and making life more precarious for people already uprooted from their homes.

Safe and sustainable solutions for displaced people are becoming harder to achieve as climate change adds to degraded and dangerous conditions in areas of origin and refuge.

From catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and parts of the Sahel, to relentless drought and suffering in Afghanistan, Madagascar and the Horn of Africa, millions were displaced in 2022 alone.

The climate crisis is driving displacement and making life harder for those already forced to flee. Entire populations are already suffering the impacts of climate change, but vulnerable people living in some of the most fragile and conflict-affected countries are often disproportionately affected.

Refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and stateless people are on the frontlines of the climate emergency. Many are living in climate “hotspots”, where they typically lack the resources to adapt to an increasingly hostile environment.

The impacts of climate change are numerous and may both trigger displacement and worsen living conditions or hamper return for those who have already been displaced. Limited natural resources, such as drinking water, are becoming even scarcer in many parts of the world that host refugees. Crops and livestock struggle to survive where conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet, threatening livelihoods. In such conditions, climate change can act as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing tensions and adding to the potential for conflicts.

Hazards resulting from the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as abnormally heavy rainfall, prolonged droughts, desertification, environmental degradation, or sea-level rise and cyclones are already causing an average of more than 20 million people to leave their homes and move to other areas in their countries each year.

Some people are forced to cross borders in the context of climate change and disasters and may in some circumstances be in need of international protection. Refugee and human rights law therefore have an important role to play in this area.

The Global Compact on Refugees, affirmed by an overwhelming majority in the UN General Assembly in December 2018, directly addresses this growing concern. It recognizes that “climate, environmental degradation and disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements”.

In this assignment, student try to put themselves in the shoes of someone displaced by the effects of climate change, and convey what that would mean to the refugee. The medium is left up to the student: a traditional narrative story, a diary, news articles, tweets, or whatever else their teacher approves.

Linked in the grade 10 climate unit.

Physics Haiku

Physics is a very mathematical science. Yet paradoxically, physicists are often very poetical people. Poets, after all, distill the most meaning into the fewest words.

In this assignment students write five haiku (or limericks) abut a physic topic. I find it useful as a fun review activity.

Linked in the grade 11 and grade 12 physics pages.