The Age of the Climate Refugees is Here

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In an October 2017 report for YES! Magazine, Mark Trahant wrote, “We don’t think of Californians as climate refugees yet, but we should.” Trahant was referring to the victims of the wildfires that devastated Californian communities around the cities of Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara. As his YES! Magazine article noted, the World Meteorological Organization has determined that “natural disasters have tripled and the damage caused by them have increased fivefold” due to climate change.

Hurricanes and tornados have become much more powerful in recent years, decimating cities and towns, and death tolls continue to rise. Climatologists warned of this but many balked, and now when it is a reality for US citizens as it is in Puerto Rico, President Trump’s reaction to the slow response time in the aftermath of Maria was clearly another opportunity to grandstand. Trahant noted, “Puerto Rico still waits for clean water, sanitation, electricity, and basic infrastructure more than a month after its storms.” Yet, President Trump told reporters, when describing the federal government’s response, “I’d say it was a 10.” Trump’s upbeat assessment fails to align with reality—as of December 2017, 1.5 million people in Puerto Rico remained without power.

Scientists warn that climate-change driven disasters will get worse, and the planet may become uninhabitable if we do not stop this vicious cycle of destruction and denial. Trahant wrote, “If global carbon emissions continue at a high level, extreme dry periods will double,” according to an October 2015 study.

Populations are already struggling to keep up with disaster relief and repair at currents levels, and the idea of increasing those exponentially seems terrifying.

Although many news media outlets report on disasters, especially for their shock value, few report on why these disasters are so severe. All the major outlets from MSNBC to CNBC, to FOX News report disasters, while frequently omitting the connections between those disasters and climate change, as a previous Project Censored report documented.  In an exception to this pattern, in December, 2017, the Los Angeles Times published an article that addressed links between climate change and California’s disastrous fire season, as well as other “extreme events.” However, the Los Angeles Times’ coverage concluded in a way that might well have been disheartening to the victims of those fires when it noted that, “the more that extreme events occur, the more that scientists have to study—and the better they will be able to nail those relationships down in the future.”


Mark Trahant, “We Don’t Think of Californians as Climate Refugees Yet, But We Should,” YES! Magazine, October 23, 2017,

Amy Thomson, “We Can’t Talk About the Los Angeles Fires Without Talking About Climate Change,” Mother Jones, December 6, 2017,

Student Researcher: Michael Lovell and Stephanie Rickher (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)