As a child, I was taught that I could save the planet by recycling, and that climate change – while an important topic – would not begin to affect the day-to-day lives of humans for a long time. But as a college student who has been alternating between a winter jacket and short-sleeved shirts as the temperature in my town jumps more than 30°F each day, I am becoming acutely aware of the fact that I will face catastrophic climate change effects in my lifetime. In fact, I have learned that climate change has already been wreaking havoc on ecosystems and economies for years. Indeed, it has escalated to the point of massive wildfires in Australia and the Western U.S., drought in the Eastern Mediterranean, and famine in East Africa.
As extreme environmental conditions render certain regions increasingly unlivable, residents begin to search for more hospitable lands. This phenomenon, while a natural response to worsening climates, lays the groundwork for the climate change effect that my younger self found quite apocalyptic: global climate migration. Already, I know of aunts in California who are thinking of moving across the country to escape wildfires and grandparents who are considering moving from Florida to more inland locations. While most contemporary climate migration consists of intra-state and intra-regional movement, worsening climate conditions suggest that future migration may become more international.
Considering the vast economic and political implications of international climate migration, it seems like political leaders are not addressing the issue as proactively as they could. As a young person, I feel especially powerless on the topic. For all young people who might be feeling similarly overwhelmed or powerless regarding climate migration and climate change in general, I want to highlight a unique opportunity to obtain a seat at the discussion table. The Alliance for Citizen Engagement (ACE), a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank headquartered in the United States, is hosting the world’s first youth-led Climate Migration Conference from April 26th to April 28th. This conference will feature climate activists and youth voices from around the world, including members of the Arab Youth Climate Movement and Chatham House’s Common Futures Conversations program. Each day will focus on a different geographic region: Central and Latin America and the Caribbean (April 26), Sub-Saharan Africa (April 27), and the Middle East and North Africa (April 28). You can register and learn more at this link! I hope to see all of you powerful writers at this impactful event!