"International law needs to acknowledge persons displaced by the changing climate."
"In the beginning of "Paradise Lost," Milton describes Hell as containing no light, only "darkness made visible." As the sun rose across the Philippines to reveal the supreme devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, there were indeed "sights of woe, regions of sorrow, and doleful shades."
But the Philippines is not Hell, and the global community must recognize a different darkness made visible by this recent tragedy: the looming problem of climate refugees.
International law is silent on the matter of climate refugees – an emerging victims class in the 21st century. While political refugees of Syrian and Congolese violence dominate news headlines, groups and individuals displaced due to environmental factors often suffer in obscurity. This is not altogether surprising, given that refugee law emerged from the darkness of World War II, as Europe attempted to rediscover humanity in the ashes of the Holocaust. The Refugee Convention of 1951 was a response to the egregious human rights violations of the preceding decade, and the accompanying 1967 Protocol reaffirmed the status of refugees as political victims. "
Brendan North writes in U.S. News & World Report November 21, 2013.