Houses for climate refugees | Brussels Blog

Houses for climate refugees

posted by Geoff on 3rd Oct 2011

Climate Progress has a discussion on a recent paper by James Hansen which highlights the prognosis for climate change in southern parts of the United States, where drought and sea level rise are particular dangers.

Here is an excerpt from the discussion that followed:

Peter Mizla says: The great 20th century migration to the ‘sunbelt’ is ending. The Way back north should start in the 2020’s.

Bill G says: Hello Detriot: Stop! Do Not tear down those thousands of abandoned houses! Tenants are on the way.

Climate change is expected to be kinder to Britain than Texas. But in Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change Hansen discusses the possibility of a 5m rise in sea-level this century if the loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating exponentially.

Five-meter sea level change in 21st century under assumption of linear change (Alley, 2010) and exponential change (Hansen, 2007), the latter with a 10-year doubling time.

Hansen points out that predictions at this stage are uncertain but may actually be worse. He says

These data records are too short to provide a reliable evaluation of the doubling time, but, such as they are, they yield a best fit doubling time for annual mass loss of 5-6 years for both Greenland and Antarctica., consistent with the approximate doubling of annual mass loss in the period 2003-2008.

A doubling time if 5-6 years would lead to a much higher sea-level rise than 5m this century. But just try a 5m rise on firtree website Most people in Hull and Grimsby may need to be rehoused so will  the climate refugees from Southern Europe.

These predictions will not be taken seriously enough by the politicians and government departments that I manage to catch – they are not ready to make any plans that require significant resources but perhaps they can be persuaded that contingency plans are necessary – these plans may be needed in a hurry.

Instant low carbon housing required

Prefabs, the “temporary” homes built after the World Wars of the twentieth century, were one of the great housing successes in the past 100 years. They were meant to last 5 or 10 years but some have lasted 60 years. But the big story is that the residents liked them. See, for example, Wolverhampton History and Heritage Society’s article on Tarran Bungalows on the East Park Estate or Nurse Richards of Portobello. For a more architectural description of prefabs Prefab: From Utilitarian Home To Design Icon.

We must have contingency plans for the possible influx of climate refugees and designs for modern prefabs – buildings that can be delivered quickly and ready for use – must be part of this planning.

They must be low carbon both in use and construction. At present the construction industry and government are downplaying the carbon dioxide emitted when buildings are constructed. Even “zero energy developments”, such as BedZED, can have very large carbon footprints from their construction. See Embodied carbon ignored. One maker of prefabricated buildings, Baufritz, claims that their buildings store carbon rather than emitting it to the atmosphere. See Do wooden houses store carbon?

A refugees economy

These designs should be tried and tested – so should plans for their layout and use. The planning for the settlement of climate refugees should also include plans for how a local economy can work in these refugee settlements. That will need a collaboration between economists and planners – a topic for a future post.

Geoff Beacon

3rd October 2011


And refugees from flooding too? : NASA: It Rained So Hard the Oceans Fell


Hello, This is such an excellent article,

So if an island nation is submerged beneath the ocean, does it maintain its membership in the United Nations? Who is responsible for the citizens? Do they travel on its passport? Who claims and enforces offshore mineral and fishing rights in waters around a submerged nation? International law currently has no answers to such questions.

United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.

“Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.

Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from the University of Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.
t present, however, there appear to be at least three possibilities that could advance the international debate about ‘climate refugee’ protections and fill existing gaps in international law.

The first option is to revise the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to include climate (or environmental) refugees and to offer legal protections similar to those for refugees fleeing political persecution. A second, more ambitious option is to negotiate a completely new convention, one that would try to guarantee specific rights and protections to climate or environmental ‘refugees`.

Jennifer Doherty ( April 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm )

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