Andrew Dickens: The truth about climate change refugees

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jan 2020, 4:09PM
The first climate refugees appear to be middle-class professionals in Sydney. (Photo / AP)

Andrew Dickens: The truth about climate change refugees

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jan 2020, 4:09PM

It seems as though debate about the climate, it’s changes and the implications have hit a new level due to the Australian and Amazonian fires of the past year.

Not a day goes by anymore without a headline that contains the word climate.

Meanwhile, we wait to experience an event that is definitively linked to what I call human caused environment change.

So today, I’ve finally experienced it.

A friend of mine is returning from Australia after living there for 10 years. He’s tired of 40 degree summers and choking on smoke.  He’s not afraid of fire because he lives in the city like most Australians. But he’s had enough. His son is asthmatic and he doesn’t believe that things are ever going to get any better. So he’s packing up and coming home

I realised that he could be called the first climate change refugee I know.

And here’s a question. How many more Australians and New Zealanders are going to head east to our country?

In this week’s Listener the ANZ economist Sharon Zollner has been interviewed. She’s been thinking about how the fires will affect trade and migration between New Zealand and Australia over time. She believes the fires are good for our trade as the Australians will have to import more food as the droughts and fires continue.

As to migration, she points out the number of New Zealand passport holders in Australia is huge and under CER Australians have the right to move here.

We’re used to flow of New Zealander’s westward to the former lucky country but if it reverses then the impact on us will be huge. Good and bad.  We’ll take their teachers and doctors gladly, we’ll take the growth that migration provides but in return we’ll  have infrastructure and housing chaos. If Sydney and Melbourne stay smoky for the rest of the year then there could be a flood of migration

When you hear about climate change refugees or any refugees really, you imagine island people or people living in already harsh environments. Poor people. I’m not sure people realise that the first climate change refugees are middle class professionals from Ryde in Sydney. Or billionaires from America.

When people talk about climate change, I don’t worry about drowning under rising sea or dying in catastrophic fires. I don’t worry about the climate hurting me. The thing that will do the most damage and have the biggest effects will be humans on other humans.

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