Climate Migration, A Very Different Global Crisis Is Coming

While the pandemic has restricted people's movement, climate change will increasingly do the opposite as populations move from the worst to less affected zones.

A Venezuelan family in a makeshift migrant camp in Bogota, Colombia
A Venezuelan family in a makeshift migrant camp in Bogota, Colombia
Brigitte LG Baptiste


BOGOTÁ — Scientists warn that climate change could trigger a veritable collapse of our civilization in this or the next century. The worst-case scenario currently being put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has temperatures rising 4 degrees Celsius, and sea levels rising 1 meter by 2100.

Having this information puts us in a complex situation. Paralyzed by the gravity and imminence of what may come, mostly we prefer to avoid the subject. We shouldn't though, because even though the probability of that worst scenario is relatively low — 17%, for now at least — conditions are deteriorating, and with repercussions that will be felt by all.

One thing worth considering are the lessons we've presumably learned as we slowly emerge from another kind of global crisis: the coronavirus pandemic.

Cooperation and competition, in differing doses, are the forces that mold adaptive responses to environmental tensions. We are entering a phase where the former will matter more, as there can be no quarantine against climate chaos, nor hideaways allowing protective isolation for some.

People's main response to heat waves and natural disasters will be to migrate, be it on temporary or permanent bases, with the UN's International Organization for Migration expecting between 200 million and 1 billion climate migrants by 2050. Such figures, it states, will be the fruit of our very successful collective effort to ignore the scale of the climate problem.

The nomadic world that is heading our way as a result of ecosystem collapse will involve crises resulting from the material and symbolic tensions caused by large populations moving from the worst to less affected zones. There may well be a hardening of borders, either in legal terms or invisibly.

Millennials are already showing interesting forms of territorial disconnection, which shows how one can learn from a nomadic world through its circumstances. That may be a key to designing a more welcoming civilization in the full sense of the world: Nobody knows where they will end up or when they may have to move.

Providing sanctuary and protection to the refugee will implicate all territories.

In these conditions, the notion of providing sanctuary and protection to the refugee will implicate all territories. Paradoxically, those who attain better levels of attention will be overwhelmed by the needs of those who have not, which will gravely affect their own capacities.

Today, a place like Puerto Carreño on the Colombia-Venezuela border is surrounded by recently formed shantytowns in threatened natural zones (like the Cerro de la Bandera or the mouth of the Bita river). This is the result of a mix of populism and manipulative usage of solidarity, which merely create future problems along with murky dependencies on gangs and human-traffickers.

Thinking of formal strategies to prevent climate migration from falling into the hands of illegal groups is a matter of urgency. We should rather turn migratory flows into a legitimate opportunity to make settlement, work, education and all forms of production more flexible. This is undoubtedly an immense socio-ecological challenge.

Clearly, insularity is of no use here: There is no room for nostalgia for the ancestral turf or a return to local lifestyles when the climate is forcing us all to make our actions global.

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A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo


TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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