Woodrow Wilson Center: ‘Giant Number of Refugees’ Are Result of Climate Change

By Penny Starr | June 24, 2016 | 5:05 PM EDT

Jane Harman, president and CEO of

the Woodrow Wilson International

Center for Scholars.  

(CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – During an event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Thursday to discuss how women are disproportionately affected by climate change in developing countries, Jane Harman, president and CEO of the center, said that many of the refugees around the globe today are being displaced by climate change.

Harman said it is in the interest of the United States to “build resilience” in these countries to prevent migration and even terrorism.

“It seems to me that the U.S. has a direct interest in building government capacity, which will build resilience in the countries you’re talking about,” Harman said.

“Because if we don’t do it, guess what happens?” she said. “What we’re seeing right now is – it’s not just refugee flows, which is also horrible and heartbreaking – oh by the way, climate refugees are a giant number of refugees.”

We’re also seeing the export of terrorism caused by instability in those countries, Harman said.

“So it seems to me if we want to reduce – we’ll never totally prevent it – but want to reduce the terror threat to the United States, we have to help build resilient capacity in countries abroad,” she said.

The framework for the conference,  “At the Eye of the Storm: Women and Climate Change,” was described as follows:

“Struggling to save their failing crops. Walking farther to fetch clean water. Protecting their families from devastating storms and violent conflicts. Experts warn that women in developing countries will be disproportionately affected by climate changes. But women could also hold the keys to solving the climate challenge.

“Empowering women through education, economic opportunities, and reproductive health care can make surprising contributions to the climate fight. To make this happen, we need to bridge sectoral barriers and work together to ensure that women are climate victors, and not climate victims.”

One panelist, Public Policy Fellow Maxine Burkett, shared the story of an Indonesian woman who wants to save the forests in her country. 

“My people regard the Earth as the human body,” “Mama” Aleta Baun said. “Stone is our bone. Water is our blood. Land is our flesh. Forest is our hair.”

“If one of them is taken away, we are paralyzed,” Baun said.

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