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Putting Climate Change Refugees on the Map

First posted 09:38:02 (Mla time) November 20, 2007

VALENCIA, SPAIN -- Even as UN climate scientists here debate the fine print of a report designed to help forestall the ravages of global warming, a new class of victims has already emerged.

Call them climate refugees. They are a reality, and yet they do not exist -- at least not in the nomenclature of the international organizations set up to protect the rights and dignity of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Because they flee environments made unlivable by shifting weather patterns or rising seas rather than political persecution or war, these refugees slip between the cracks into a bureaucratic gray zone.

However, an unlikely band of French photographers and journalists is bearing witness to the devastating impact of rising global temperatures on the daily lives of ordinary people.

After four years wandering the globe, from the dust bowl that used to be Lake Chad to the melting permafrost of Alaska to the sinking island paradise of Tuvalu, the Argos Collective has put the fruit of their investigations between covers.

Already published in French and soon to appear in English, “Climate Refugees” published by Infolio is the first book devoted exclusively to showing the consequences of climate change up close and personal.

Using the massive 2,500-page report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the scientists who wrote it as their guides, the Argos Collective pinpointed nine locales in which global warming has played at least a major role in making life difficult, if not unbearable.

“Our job is to tell stories we have heard and bear witness to what we have seen,” said Guy-Pierre Chomette, one of the collective’s three writers and six photographers, all freelance.

“The science was already there when we started in 2004, but we wanted to emphasize the human dimension of the problem, especially for those most vulnerable,” he said.

Starting with a single magazine assignment, the collective gradually attracted government and corporate backing for the project.

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