Sophie Joseph Photo courtesy of Big Plan Holding

By Tribune Staff

NASHVILLE, TN — Local non-profit, The Joseph Family Foundation, has been bringing attention to the International Refugee Assistance Project’s Climate Displacement Program (IRAP) mission to change the lives of individuals impacted by climate change. Sophie Joseph and IRAP worked with The Joseph Family Foundation to hold a Casino Night on January 27, 2023 at 14TENN, raise awareness for those impacted by climate displacement. The event raised money, continuing the important work around climate displacement and climate migration.

According to IRAP, since 2008, environmental disasters have displaced approximately three times more people than violence and armed conflict.  As the impacts of climate change increase, internationally, nationally, and locally, we are seeing a surge in climate-based migration. According to Joseph, 59.1 million people were internally displaced within the confines of their border. This level of displacement is larger than the entire state of California and equal to the country of Colombia. 

Migration has been a hot-button topic in America over the past 10-15 years. Lawmakers in Tennessee and nationally have argued over placement of migrants in the states and have used migrants as political tools in national discourse. Joseph notes that the problem is two-fold. One, the international community has no legal framework for those currently facing climate displacement. The UN Refugee Agency states “there may be situations where the refugee criteria of the 1951 Convention or the broader refugee criteria of regional refugee law frameworks could apply.”  

Two, migration is a topic of conversation, nationally and internationally, but there’s a lack of nuance in the discussion regarding climate displacement. Lack of resources caused by intense droughts and other severe weather has also increased internal tumult throughout the world, leading to increases in violence, the drug trade, and other illicit activities. The average person that experiences a climate-based natural disaster such as a wildfire often loses their home, and all tangible connections to their current life. 

Climate displacement may seem like something that is occurring elsewhere, but it is impacting Tennessee. Record-breaking heat waves, wildfires, and tornadoes have all impacted residents of Tennessee in the past few years. In 2010, a massive flood displaced residents throughout the Nashville area, many that were never able to return home, and in December an historic cold snap led to rolling blackouts throughout the state with significant impacts in majority-minority areas such as Antioch. 

Climate-related migration will only increase as time progresses. Joseph encourages people to educate themselves on the topic as climate change will continue to impact Nashville, the United States, and the world. IRAP and the Joseph Family Foundation hope to continue to hold events in Tennessee to bring awareness to the topic locally, while raising funds for those displaced by climate related events. 

If you would like to learn more about the work the International Refugee Assistance Project’s Climate Displacement Project is doing, you can visit their website at