Thu, Mar 15, 2012 - Page 8

Climate change no joke

A recent report about “climate refugees” in the South Pacific (“Entire Pacific nation could eventually move into Fiji,” March 12, page 5) sounded the alarm about the tiny island nation of Kiribati and its fears over climate change and rising sea levels.

The term “climate refugees” is a fairly recent coinage, created a few years ago by a human immigration and migration expert at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and as time goes on, we are likely to see this term used more and more often in newspaper headlines and articles.

Could Taiwan’s 23 million people someday end up as climate refugees themselves? The question sounds more like science fiction than anything else, but a few climate scientists at National Taiwan University have already spoken publicly about the issue.

With Earth Day approaching on April 22, a sci-fi writer from Oklahoma, who I have been in contact with over the past year as part of my Polar Cities Project, will release the first ever “cli-fi” novel about so-called “polar cities” in Alaska, with one of the main characters, Professor Hei Chu, part of his colorful cast of characters.

The book is titled Polar City Red and was written by Jim Laughter, a retired US Air Force technical writer with a host of sci-fi novels under his belt.

The story is about climate refugees who have fled to Alaska in some distant future, and while Laughter’s book will not change the world, it is a good thought exercise to give expression to human imagination and emotions about our collective future.

In his novel, Laughter, a retired grandfather of four, envisions so-called “polar cities” for future survivors of devastating climate change disasters worldwide. While his book is not about Taiwan and does not take place in Taiwan, it could very well be about Taiwan’s future as an island nation with millions of climate refugees who must flee someday to northern climes in some distant future.

Taiwan is not Kiribati, but people here might want to read Laughter’s novel to peer into the future; not through the lens of science, but through the lens of human imagination and emotions.

In the end, climate change is not a laughing matter, and Jim Laughter is not laughing.

Dan Bloom

Chiayi City