Give us the bodies

Habeas Corpus – late Middle English: Latin, literally ‘you shall have the body (in court)’ (

Raveena Aulakh

A heart-string-tugging humanitarian piece was published in the Toronto Star last weekend. It concerns the plight of some 250 million climate change refugees expected worldwide by 2050 and was entitled Climate change forcing thousands in Bangladesh into slums of Dhaka.

Rising sea levels could flood 17 per cent of Bangladesh and create between 20 million and 30 million refugees, experts say. The Star’s environment reporter Raveena Aulakh recently travelled to the country to look at how climate change is affecting one of the world’s most densely populated countries and its people.

The article was rich in anecdotes of the poor and miserable lifestyles of families living in the slums of a city which has tripled its population in less than 25 years, from 6 million to 17 million.

For example:

“I don’t want to live like this … who wants to?” says Masud, a pretty woman with big eyes and a sad smile. But after her husband’s family farm and home in Barisal, in southern Bangladesh, were inhaled [sic] by a powerful cyclone in 2008, they had no choice.

She is a climate change refugee.

Climate change is expected to trigger a migration like no other.

Masud family

While not wanting to be at all unkind about this pretty, sad woman’s situation, I still think she might better be termed a Weather Refugee, not a Climate Change Refugee. A cyclone is a weather event — a particularly big event, especially when it “inhales” farms and homes. But the author of the article conflates weather with climate:

Siqdar, 25, left his village of Chandpura, near the coast, after Cyclone Aila in 2009 flattened everything — his village, his house and the brick kiln where he worked.

Sad as it is that this bloke had everything flattened and decided to leave rather than build something stronger, one weather event does not indicate a trend. This is the problem with Aulakh’s article: it states that climate change is doing it all. But when one examines the data one finds no evidence of increased storms or alarming rates of sea level rise.

So, what is the Indian government doing about this crisis? It has had scientists out measuring stuff, running computer model simulations and reporting on the future. Here are some of their findings:

“Mean Sea Level rise: The average sea level rise has been 1.3 mm per year along the Indian coast(INCCA, 2010), however, tide gauge observations at the diamond harbour port indicate a sea level rise of 5.7 mm, which can be attributed to subsidence in the region at the rate of 4mm per year.” (p20).

“There is no significant trend in frequency of different categories of disturbances crossing Bangladesh coast. Considering individual states in east coast of India, there is significant increasing trend in the frequency of severe cyclones land-falling over Andhra Pradesh. There is decreasing trend in the annual frequency of cyclonic storms crossing Orissa and West Bengal mainly due to decrease in frequency of cyclones during monsoon season.” (p12).

The scientific literature on the effect of global warming on the Bay of Bengal is not vast. Most seem to rely on models with various extremes as inputs. For example, an assumed sea level rise of 1m, plus an increased sea surface temperature of 4°C, spring tides coinciding with category 5 cyclones, with associated 6-metre storm surges, result in inundation of 15.5% of the total area (A. Ali, 1996).

But these assumptions are absolutely the worst case projections by the IPCC AR4. When you look at the IPCC’s global analysis of short-term (10 years) sea level trends, it looks like this:


As you see, slightly rising sea levels and declining temperatures around Bangladesh (top eastern coast of India). No big alarm there, certainly nothing like 1000mm and 4°C over the next 100 years.

So, back to Habeas Corpus. Where are the bodies? Where are the climate change refugees? Well, it all depends on how one defines a climate change refugee. A career environmentalist like Aulakh would define it as anyone who has moved because they didn’t like the weather. Me, I would want to see evidence that the weather is on a climatically worsening trend making a particular region uninhabitable. For example, if Kiribati actually disappeared under a few metres of the Pacific.

Of weather refugees there may be many, but of climate refugees – habeas corpus, please.

Visits: 356

19 Thoughts on “Give us the bodies

  1. Alexander K on 27/02/2013 at 8:53 am said:

    Good article,Mike, but it’s not uncommon for individuals to migrate toward warmth as they age..
    It could be said that when I moved from the Manawatu to lower Northland almost thirty years ago, I was a ‘climate refugee’! I was certainly sick of the cold winters and would never move back to that district again as Summer visits are enough for me these days. Many of my now-retired peers have moved to live in climes chosen for warmth and the proximity to beaches or Golf courses – It could be said we are all ‘climate refugees’, but anyone attempting to infer that this shift was caused by so-called Climate Change would have to be deluded at best. Old joints function best when they are warm!

  2. Richard C (NZ) on 27/02/2013 at 9:46 am said:

    The number of economic refugees far outweighs thin-on-the-ground climate refugees. NZ => AU, North Africa => Italy, rural China => urban China, Mexico => USA, boat-people => AU (and on to NZ now). This is the major international problem with all its attendant crimes – people smuggling, forced prostitution, illegal immigration, forced labour etc.

    Changing climate and economic conditions forcing entire settlements to move has been a fact of life as long as there’s been human habitation on the earth and it will continue. Climate change activists trying to manufacture a crisis out of imaginary scenarios are just pushing on string in the context of the actual mass migration going on.

    It doesn’t help vulnerable low-lying areas when natural barriers are destroyed either e.g. mangrove removal, dynamite fishing. It is simply just common sense that these practices are stopped and some action taken to reverse the effects where possible.

  3. The real climate refugees will be the ones pouring out of the UK when power cuts become the norm and business can no longer function

    • Alexander K on 02/03/2013 at 10:51 am said:

      After recently returning to NZ from living and working in the UK for almost a decade, I am concerned at the absolute bollocks the UK has made of their policies for keeping the lights on and can only wonder at the sight of the three major parties all attempting to outdo each other in stupidity in this regard. My wife and I were tempted to settle in the UK and could do this quite easily under the ‘grandfather’ rules, but it became increasingly obvious while we were their that only the relatively wealthy will actually survive the ridiculous and rising costs for energy in their homes, . I am aware that millions of the UK’s elderly have already fallen into fuel poverty and as that country’s real energy sources dwindle, millions more of the low-paid and elderly will find it increasingly difficult to afford both food and home heating.
      To return home to find members of our government defending the lunatic logic of the ETS is quite worrying. We sincerely hope that the sensible Kiwi pragmatism will eventually prevail.

    • Mike Jowsey on 04/03/2013 at 11:50 am said:

      Consumers are being warned they face higher energy bills as the UK becomes more reliant on energy imports.

      The chief executive of Consumer Focus, Mike O’Conner, warned that it would be those who can least afford it who would suffer the most.

      “With six million households in fuel poverty, rising to over nine million by 2016, and an increasing proportion of our incomes being spent on essential items like energy, this latest news… is chilling.”

      (Or would it be “wind farm refugees”, Andy?)

    • Mike – Bishop Hill has a rather worrying post – and I have seen this all over the net now – that the wind output in Europe is incredibly low. In the UK output is something like 0.5% of the grid.

      Coal and nuclear is going offline in many cases. People won’t just not be able to afford power. There won’t be any to buy

    • Mike Jowsey on 04/03/2013 at 2:51 pm said:

      A sobering report cited in the Times:

      In today’s Times (02.02.11) it is reported that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has published data confirming that its wind turbine fleet has reported a 20% reduction in energy generation in the last year. SSE is said to have released this data in response to requests from concerned shareholders.

    • The Bishop Hill link to the european wind output is here

      and another one here

      and “Big Wind just got smaller”, relevant to Mike’s post is here

      All in all, combined with the phasing out of coal and nuclear capabilities in the UK, starting this year, things are looking pretty desperate

    • Richard C (NZ) on 04/03/2013 at 12:42 pm said:

      >”wind farm refugees” – already a fact of life in Australia for example but only for the relatively fortunate. It is those that are stuck where they are without the resources to move or any hope of respite or compensation that are being driven mad.

  4. Richard C (NZ) on 27/02/2013 at 7:10 pm said:

    Push to address climate change

    A bipartisan group of former U.S. foreign policy officials, military leaders and lawmakers pushed on Monday for action on addressing climate change in poor nations, arguing it represents a major national security threat.

    “Their plight is our fight; their problems are our problems,” according to an “open letter” signed by a group organized by the Partnership for a Secure America, a nonprofit founded by former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) and former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.).


    Unless precautionary steps are taken, they warn that “climate change impacts abroad could spur mass migrations, influence civil conflict and ultimately lead to a more unpredictable world.” And “protecting U.S. interests under these conditions would progressively exhaust American military, diplomatic and development resources as we struggle to meet growing demands for emergency international engagement,” they argue.


    “There’s a massive amount of ignorance on the part of political leaders and the average citizen as to what climate change is, as to really what a sustainable marketplace is,” added Gilchrest, who co-founded a congressional climate change caucus with former Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.).

    Former Clinton administration CIA Director James Woolsey added that even if some don’t believe the causes of climate change, there is no doubt that problems will continue to cascade in poorer nations and in turn, cause problems for the U.S.

    “Potential consequences are undeniable, and the cost of inaction, paid for in lives and valuable U.S. resources, will be staggering,” the officials say in the letter. “Washington must lead on this issue now.”

    >>>>> [long list of ex-Clinton, ex-Reagan and ex-Congess/Senate names at end]

    “precautionary steps” like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 28/02/2013 at 8:34 am said:

    Former CIA head suggests that CO2 will cause glacial retreats in the Andes, which will cause the U.S. to be confronted with “millions upon millions of southern neighbours hungry, thirsty, with crops failing and looking for some place in the world they can go”

    Where are the bodies? Where are the climate change refugees? You have imagine them Mike.

    • Mike Jowsey on 03/03/2013 at 5:54 pm said:

      If climate change is going to cause crop failures in South America, causing millions of climate refugees, why the hell would these refugees want to go north to the dust bowls and hurrican-ravaged states? Maybe all those FEMA camps the US are building will hold some attraction for them. Or maybe the former CIA head needs his former CIA head examined.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 03/03/2013 at 6:45 pm said:

      >”….why the hell would these refugees want to go north to the dust bowls and hurrican-ravaged states?”

      I wondered about that too Mile. It’s also a long way for so many people. I foresee logistical problems. The illegal immigrants (economic refugees) from Central America are already having enough problems moving from country to country and jumping on trains and trucks (saw a doco on that) let alone them being joined by hoards of the climate kind from South America.

      It could be a case of miss-attribution of course.

  6. Richard C (NZ) on 28/02/2013 at 10:52 am said:

    A little off topic (but not too far).

    The Great Transformation

    Karl Polanyi (1944)

    8 – 10 June 2009 in Essen, Germany.

    Global markets face the challenge of having to include the costs of environmental damage and climate protection into their pricing and of having to shift preferences. An over-confidence in markets and a fixation with the paradigm of industrial growth, however, may impede alternative routes of development. How much do measures for prevention and adaptation cost and what would be the price of inaction? When do investments in climate protective measures pay off and how are the expenses and gains distributed between the rich and the poor, the North and the South?

    Keynote: Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer, Deputy Director Potsdam Insitute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC

    Technological innovation and political regulation can only be effective if “the people” participate in their various roles as polluters, producers, citizens and voters. Democratic regimes are not well prepared for the level of participation that is required: Can free democratic societies cope with the effects of grave changes in the global climate, or might authoritarian regimes possibly be better placed to enforce the necessary measures?

    Keynote: Prof. Dr. David Held, Co-Director, Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics (LSE)

    (OTTMAR EDENHOFER, UN IPCC OFFICIAL):: First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.;wap2

    18. Februar 2013 at 00:31

    Random find. What would a weekend be without following the labyrinthine connections of the German Globalist Warmist-Scientific Complex.

    The Great Transformation is alive and well. Tomorrow, Wuppertal Institute (legendary Green Political Religion breeding ground), Maria Göpel.
    “3rd workshop for the Forschungswende (Science Turn) for the Great Transformation”

    It will take more than a warming standstill and some missing climate refugees to unwind this movement.

    • Googling “The Great Transformation” yields Karl Polanyi’s book of the same name.

      People also search for…

      “The Road to Serfdom”, by FA Hayek.

      Yes indeed

    • Mike Jowsey on 01/03/2013 at 4:17 pm said:

      “It will take more than a warming standstill and some missing climate refugees to unwind this movement.”

      Here here.

    • Mike Jowsey on 03/03/2013 at 6:27 pm said:

      Sorry, Queen’s English fail!

      Hear, hear

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      (Redirected from Here, here)
      Jump to: navigation, search

      Hear, hear is an expression used as a short, repeated form of hear him, hear him. It represents a listener’s agreement with the point being made by a speaker. In recent usage it has often been re-analysed as here, here, although this is incorrect.[1]

  7. Doug Proctor on 06/03/2013 at 1:02 pm said:

    Correlation vs causation, of course.

    Population growth, urbanization, access to employment, education. All are reasons to relocate. Demographics would be an issue in India.

    Correlate movement to piracy in the Indian Ocean. That would tell you where the REAL problem lies …..

  8. Richard C (NZ) on 24/03/2013 at 7:14 pm said:

    Hey Mike! Here’s the bodies…….

    ‘Did Global Warming Spark the Syrian War?’

    One million refugees, more than 70,000 dead, scores injured, billions of dollars lost in destroyed homes, businesses and livelihoods: the net total, to date, of the conflict that started quietly in March 2011.

    Its seeds, argue some scientists, were sown five years ago in a wretched drought.

    That is the foundation of an essay by Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security in Washington. It is part of a study released recently by the Center for American Progress titled “The Arab Spring and Climate Change.”Nowhere is the connection between climate change and conflict more apparent than in Syria.

    “Should we count 70,000 mortality from climate wars already?”

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