Climate change alters species range for H. sapiens

An article in last week’s Washington Post highlights a few of the many thousands of people and families across the globe who are leaving their homelands behind in fear of global warming.

The article mentions the country of Kiribati, a Pacific archipelago, where the government is trying to figure out how to move its 100,000 inhabitants off the island because of a steadily rising ocean level.  Environmental disasters such as flooding, droughts and fires have affected people all over the globe in recent decades, and although many are in some of the world’s poorest areas – between 10 and 20 million people Bangladesh and northern Africa, in the last decade, for example – first-world countries are not immune, as we saw during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The problem becomes a political one when a people needs to move not only themselves but their culture en masse to a new homeland , and history shows that conflicts and wars often arise after mass migrations.  The Post article reported:

“President Anote Tong of Kiribati asked the international community this month to start thinking of ways to help entire nations relocate to higher ground. He called for an international fund to buy land for such mass migrations and said his nation’s citizens are prepared to pay for a new homeland.”

Even individuals are moving. A NASA engineer and Maryland resident picked up his family and moved them to New Zealand, in part because of the risk of global warming and the purported ‘greener’ way of life.

We so often hear of species’ ranges expanding or contracting based on the supposed effects of climate change. Even with all our technology to help us withstand the elements, will ecologists turn to modeling predicted range changes of the entire human species?

Author: Christine Buckley

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