Regional Maps on Migration, Environment and Climate Change

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Regional Maps on Migration, Environment and Climate Change

The increase in global average air and sea temperatures, the prevalent melting of snow and ice, the intensification and high variability of extreme weather events, the acidification of the oceans, and the rising average global sea levels all bear witness to climate change. Climate change affects all regions of the world, but its regional and local impacts are uneven, and hard to predict accurately. The local effects and vulnerability of populations will depend greatly on local exposure, development and adaptive capacity, future demographic and economic changes, as well as on mitigation and adaptation policies that will or will not be undertaken in the coming years. The following maps illustrate some of the most prominent regional changes that are already taking place around the globe and their impacts on humans and ecosystems. The observed and emerging patterns of the changing climate already affect human mobility across the globe through slow-onset processes of environmental and ecosystem change, and through sudden-onset extreme weather events, exacerbating socio-economic vulnerabilities. Voluntary or forced environmental migration is likely to rise due to the effects of climatic changes such as increased water stress, greater food insecurity, and accelerating risks related to health and human security.

These regional maps show the key climatic risks and impacts (increased or decreased precipitation, increased monsoon precipitation extremes, increasing frequency of cyclones, desertification, increased frequency of wildfires, melting of glaciers and permafrost, coral bleaching); the main consequences (depletion of fisheries and biodiversity loss, negative agricultural changes, reduced water availability, and changes in ecosystems, including in mountain regions); as well as related social challenges (vulnerable indigenous populations, major cities, and densely populated areas affected by sea-level rise and other hazards). The maps also identify climate change “hotspots” - areas which experience a combination of several extreme climatic risks, and which are expected to be affected particularly severely.

These maps are funded by the European Union and created under the Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy (MECLEP) project, in collaboration with IOM - Sciences Po project on the Atlas of Environmental Migration. Some of the maps will be featured in the forthcoming publication (Presses de Sciences Po/Routledge).

1. Americas

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Change in precipitation patterns is predicted across the Americas with varying trends in annual rainfall shifts, leading to water-related disasters such as precipitation-induced floods, flash floods, drought with consequent wildfire danger and extreme events caused by the interaction of wind and water (e.g. storm surges). North America, in particular, faces more heat-waves in its urban centres and wildfires associated with higher temperatures and lower rainfall in the Western regions. In Northern America and in the Andean region of South America, climate change is projected to decrease annual runoff and water availability due to the retreat of glaciers and melting of snow cover. Along with changes in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, yields and quality of food crops and fisheries are expected to decrease, exposing more people to a much higher risk of food insecurity across the American continents. Coastal mega-cities, coastlines and adjacent coastal regions are also under threat from rising sea levels in North and South America as well. Intensifying tropical storm formation also poses additional perils to densely populated continental coastal areas and small islands of the Caribbean region. 

 

2. Asia & Oceania 

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The densely populated cities of large mega-deltas on the Asian coastline face high exposure to sea-level rise, storm surges and river flooding. As coastal cities expand through accelerating urbanization, many of the most vulnerable people settle in hazard-prone areas on the margins of cities, and become increasingly exposed to disasters. Climate change threatens urban and rural livelihoods and settlements through increased river and sea flooding, which damages infrastructure, and saltwater intrusion into low-lying cropland causing considerable damage to crops. In addition to food and water security, floods and droughts constitute health risks as illness and death from waterborne diseases, heat stress and malnutrition due to droughts are expected to rise in East, South and South-East Asia.

In Australia and New Zealand, climate change is expected to reduce agricultural productivity and lead to a decline in species diversity. Warmer water temperatures and rising acidity increasingly lead to the loss of biodiversity of maritime ecosystems and the benefits they provide as sustainable livelihood sources (fisheries and tourism) and natural barriers against storm formation. Pacific small island states face inundation of low-lying territories due to sea-level rise and fresh water scarcity due to reduction in rainfall, inevitably leading to the need for resettlement.

Asia and the Pacific is already the world's most natural disaster-prone area, and climate change is anticipated to accelerate the frequency and intensity of such weather-related extreme events. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), China, India and the Philippines accounted for the majority of the people displaced by disasters worldwide between 2008 and 2014. 

 

3. Europe and Africa

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Europe is expected to be affected by a wide range of impacts of climate change, including more frequent and intense heavy precipitation events, more frequent heat waves, retreating glaciers and changing terrestrial ecosystems. As the frequency of heat waves has increased in Europe, heat-related health risks and mortality rates have been rising especially in urban heat islands. In Central and Eastern Europe, summer rainfall is projected to decrease, leading to higher water stress and increase in peatland fires. In Northern Europe, more frequent winter floods, endangered ecosystems, and ground destabilization are foreseen. In the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, higher temperatures and drought are predicted to reduce water availability and crop productivity as well as to increase the risk of wildfires.

Climate change is expected to challenge food and water security in Sub-Saharan Africa, endangering lives and livelihoods. As precipitation patterns shift, yields from rain-fed agriculture are predicted to fall and compounded stress on water resources is foreseen to be intensified with escalated risks of flooding, drought and desertification. Africa, along with Asia, is urbanizing faster than any other region in the world. Rapid urbanization combined with overall population growth push socio-economically vulnerable populations into living in the most environmentally hazardous and densely populated areas, thus increasing the potential number of people affected and displaced by natural disasters.