Sustainable Communities vs. Climate Refugees: Two Opposite Results of Climate Change

Sustainable Communities vs. Climate Refugees: Two Opposite Results of Climate Change

Seda H. Bostancı, Seda Yıldırım
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8426-2.ch015
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The new phenomenon “anthropogenic climate change” has been rising due to the awareness of societies and individuals feeling more responsible in climate change. In this context, this study investigates the link between sustainable communities and climate refugees by reviewing what kinds of relationship exists between these societies and climate change. The original contribution of this study is giving a brief framework for the link between sustainable communities, climate refugees, and climate change. This study focuses on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals when observing sustainable communities and climate refugees. As a result of the review, the study presents some suggestions including solutions for the problems of climate refugees and the status of them globally. Thus, the authors point out an approach expressed as “on-the-spot solution in combating climate change for not to leave anyone behind.”
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Climate change is a natural phenomenon for the Earth that it has already happened before the current age. For example, the global average temperatures increased by about 6 degrees Celsius in a period of 20,000 years during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 56 million years ago. On the other side, an increase of 1 degree Celsius occurred just in a period of 135 years as a result of human activities. Accordingly, there will be a higher increase of warming in a shorter time as these conditions continue without any change (Leichenko and O'Brien, 2019) due to the sustainability principles. It is a fact that the earth’s atmosphere and ecosystem have been damaged by human activities and this damage has caused climate change. The science world called the human age as the anthropogenic era which includes the period after the industrial revolution that began excessive consumption of natural resources and environmental exhaustion. Global climate change can be defined as a significant change in the heat balance of the earth caused by the higher greenhouse gas emissions during the anthropogenic era. So, the term as anthropogenic climate change is also used in this literature (Rosenzweig,, 2008). Global climate change increases the frequency of droughts and floods and decreases the sources of food and water. As a result, global climate change poses a threat to every life in the ecosystem and every human on the Earth. People who struggle with ecological and climate base problems in their homeland begin to migrate from the Global South to the Global North (Rockenbauch and Sakdapolrak, 2017). These people are called environmental or climate refugees in the context of economic and socio-cultural issues.

Many studies have pointed out the ecological debt of the European countries as causing climate change since the industrial revolution (Laurent, 2011; Hornborg and Martinez-Alier, 2016). The focus point in the link between European countries and climate change can be determined that the European countries mostly increased negative effects of climate change and environmental damages in the Global South. However, it is seen that climate migrants coming to Europe due to the unequal climate conditions in these countries are welcomed negatively like other migrants. In fact, it is known that there are some climate-related reasons in every migration pattern today. Thus, the concept of climate justice is important for all migrants. Leichenko and O'Brien (2019) elaborated the political nature of this debate by discussing the uneven distribution of both the consequences and causes of climate change across society in the context of equality, ethics, and social justice. In this respect, it is seen that the climate victims suffering greatly from climate change have the least responsibility in this process as well as their weak political impact and weak conditions to survive. At this point, this criticism determines that countries who have the biggest share in causing climate change, also have the moral responsibility against to other countries who are mostly affected by climate change.

There are some policies and implications to prevent and reduce climate change. The main policies for this are energy efficiency, renewable energy policies, and reforestation. In addition, transformation in consumption patterns will contribute to achieving a balance between environment and economy. As it is determined by 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), people are responsible for sustainable development as much as businesses and governments (Weber, 2017). At this point, the lifestyle which aims to live while protecting the environment by changing consumption patterns gives a new society model called a sustainable community. Sustainable communities are primarily egalitarian and solidarity among themselves. Civic participation, shared responsibility, ecological integrity and social well-being are fundamental values of these communities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainable Communities: Sustainable communities aim to reduce the negative impacts of climate change by keeping sustainable consumption patterns and sustainable lifestyles as supporting social justice and environmental values.

Climate Refugees: Climate refugees can be defined as individuals or households who have to migrate because of sudden or long-term climate change. There may be climate refugees who move within the same country or migrate to a different country or region.

Sustainability: The ability to performing today's activities without threatening the living environments of future generations is defined as sustainability.

Ecological Sustainability: Ecological sustainability is defined as the ability of ecosystems to sustain future generations with the goal of protecting their biological diversity.

Sustainable Development: This development approach employs the principles of sustainability to achieve economic growth with social and environmental development. The ecological movement which is against this view is also defined as de-growth.

Climate Justice: Climate justice highlights the inequality levels between countries in terms of climate change effects. This movement points out the importance of social justice against activities causing climate change.

Environmental Justice: It is a movement that draws attention to the injustice situation of people such as the poor, immigrants, and outcasts with living under unhealthy environmental conditions.

Anthropogenic Climate Change Theory: This theory claims that the primary cause of climate change that threatens biodiversity, is human activities. This definition also gives responsibility to societies for climate change.

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