While the implications of climate change may be devastating to economic prosperity, national security and agricultural resources, the harsh reality of how it will affect less affluent societies is perhaps the most astounding. As Dr. Susan F. Martin from Georgetown University shared, "…natural disasters … will disproportionately impact the world's most vulnerable communities, who lack financial resources, infrastructure, and strong governance."
Proverbs 14:31 states, "Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him."
As climate change increasingly impacts the poorest regions in the world, many of which are on US soil, we must ask ourselves a simple question. Is our daily behavior generous to the needy?
The Ford Institute recently hosted a lecture entitled “Climate Change, Social Stress & Migration: Implications for Conflict & Cooperation,” featuring Dr. Susan F. Martin from Georgetown University and Dr. Daniel W. Bromley from the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Martin has substantial expertise on topics related to migration, immigration, climate change, and vulnerable populations. She is the Hertzberg Professor of International Migration and the Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. Prior to her work at Georgetown University, Dr. Martin served as the Executive Director of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform to advise Congress and the President on U.S. immigration and refugee policy. Dr. Martin has also served as the Director of Research and Programs at the Refugee Policy Group. In addition to her work at Georgetown University, Dr. Martin is currently the Chair of the Thematic Working Group on Environmental Change and Migration for the World Bank’s KNOMAD initiative.
Dr. Bromley is the Anderson-Bascom Professor (Emeritus) of applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also Visiting Professor at Humboldt University-Berlin. Dr. Bromley has published extensively on the institutional foundations of the economy; legal and philosophical dimensions of property rights; economics of natural resources and the environment; and economic development. He has been editor of the journal Land Economics since 1974. In 2011, he received the €50,000 Reimar Lüst Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. He has been a consultant to multiple agencies including the Global Environment Facility, World Bank, and Ford Foundation.
During her presentation, Dr. Martin spoke about the importance of understanding vulnerability to climate change and that effective governance is the key to moving from vulnerable to robust communities. We expect to find that as the climate continues to change, we will experience an increase in the number and strength of natural disasters which will disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable communities, who lack financial resources, infrastructure, and strong governance. These natural disasters include: drought and desertification, rising sea levels, intensified acute natural hazards, and competition for natural resources. Some communities facing these disasters may consider migration, which may be temporary, seasonal, or permanent, as an adaptation strategy.