By Dave Sewell
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2540

Locking people out to drown or starve is our rulers’ rotten response to climate change

This article is over 7 years, 3 months old
Issue 2540
Climate change can make floods more likely - and potentially force people from their homes
Climate change can make floods more likely – and potentially force people from their homes (Pic: Amir Jina/Flickr)

Campaigners were set to meet in central London on Saturday to discuss climate change and refugees.

By some estimates, climate change-related disasters have already displaced 140 million people in the last six years.

Far larger numbers could be displaced over the coming decades. Major cities will flood. Important agricultural areas will decline and fisheries collapse.

This process has already begun. If urgent action is taken to address the causes of climate change, it can be limited, slowed and managed.

But many millions of people will have to move.

Sections of the ruling class, such as new US president Donald Trump, seek to play down the reality of climate change.

But others look to a response in the model of the “lifeboat ethics” proposed by 20th century eugenicist Garrett Hardin.

He argued that if a ship sinks and there aren’t enough lifeboats to go around, trying to keep everyone safe will end up sinking them too.

It’s better for a few people to survive, he claimed, even if it’s at the cost of ruthlessly pushing everyone else into the sea.


The “security” industry that makes fences, guns and drones to control borders is growing fast.

Its bosses are greedily looking forward to government demand for their services going even higher.

And unfortunately even some in the environmental movement accept dangerous arguments that there are too many people.

Others say that immigration must be controlled to keep emissions down. This plays into the hands of a system that creates scarcity in a world of plenty.

Climate change could give ammunition to their arguments that there aren’t enough resources to go around. They say humanity has surpassed Earth’s “carrying capacity”.

In reality there is more than enough food and land for everybody—but a system built on inequality stops it being shared out. Climate catastrophe could change that.

But it will take the chaos of the market economy to turn food shortages into famines, and imperialist competition to turn them into wars.

Human creativity and ingenuity can limit climate change and adapt to its effects. But a society organised to produce profit holds us back.

Those at the top of society will step up their war on refugees in order to preserve it. Our survival may depend on taking them on.

Climate refugees – refugees and population displacement conference – Saturday 11 February, 10am – 5pm, Hamilton House, London WC1H 9BD. Organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change and Friends of the Earth. Go to to register

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