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Threat multiplier: The impacts of climate change on refugees

Threat multiplier: The impacts of climate change on refugees

On June 20, known internationally as World Refugee Day, the world will celebrate the strength and courage of refugees around the world. This year, the vulnerability of refugees has been exacerbated by a global pandemic. Cramped living conditions and lack of access to vital resources put millions at extreme risk. In coming years, refugees will continue facing tremendous and unique challenges caused by yet another ongoing global crisis: climate change.

For refugees, climate change is what you'd call a "threat multiplier," says Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

As the leader of the U.S.-wing of an organization that served 1 in every 100 refugees worldwide in 2018, Rosenhauer knows well what kind of difficulties displaced persons are up against. In a June 19 interview with EarthBeat, she explained how the effects of climate change will not only lead to enormous numbers of displaced people in the future, but are also making life harder for refugees in the present.

"Imagine having fled your home after violence was imminent for you that threatened your life. You're grabbing your kids. You're fleeing. You're trying to settle into a home and place with almost no resources. You're living in a strange place with a mud hut. And then [imagine] having it all flattened by a storm," Rosenhauer said. "You've had to leave everything behind and you've lost everything already once, and now twice. It's those kinds of experiences where we see that climate change really multiplies the challenges that refugees face."