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How Climate Change is Affecting Ukrainian Refugees, At Home and Abroad (January 2023)

Alan Bye, Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

@ International Foundation for World Freedom

At home in Ukraine and abroad overseas, climate change is leading to extreme weather boomerangs throughout the year that are taking its toll on Ukrainian refugees. In Ukraine, with Russia’s bombardment of the Ukrainian electrical grid and lack of power to go around, the harsh winter months have been a burden on Ukrainians just trying to survive. The average temperature in the Ukrainian winter ranges between 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-4.8 C) and 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 C), frequently dipping below freezing ( Ukrainians suffering from electrical losses will have no heat to get them through the freezing cold, and many refugees are hunkering down in damaged buildings, unequipped to handle the weather.

Nearly 8 million Ukrainians were displaced by the Russian invasion — the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Millions of people have trekked across the country by car and foot to escape, with practically nothing on their backs. They march through the blistering low temperatures and their only means of survival are whatever jackets and blankets they can muster, and they burn whatever they can for heat.

But just because some of them may reach the United States doesn’t mean that their weather troubles are over. Climate change has brought all kinds of turmoil to the American weather front in recent years. Refugees and lower income people are at the highest risk to be heavily affected by extreme weather events.

For example, in California recently, severe rain storms have killed at least 20 people and caused over 1 billion dollars in property damage. Refugees coming in with low income and limited job opportunities may not be able to afford the heat necessary in the United States to get them through the winter cold comfortably.

And once the summer months kick in, things only get even more difficult. The summer of 2022 saw record breaking heat across the United States and Europe. Ukrainian refugees moving to places such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel were ill-equipped to handle the extreme heat that they felt last summer, as Ukraine is not considered a hot climate. Many of them could not afford the fans and air conditioning they needed to fight the heat. England saw its hottest temperatures ever last summer (ABC News) and California had the hottest September heat wave on record in 2022 (CNN).

These patterns will surely continue into the summer of 2023, as climate change is only continuing to progress. Climate change will adversely affect people on the poverty line as the years go on, which unfortunately means refugees will only find their lives continuing to be made even more difficult.

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