Fleeing Climate Change: Impacts on Migration and Displacement.
In 2015, alone, climate-related disasters displaced 14.7 million people, a new report from CARE Denmark shows. Unless governments take strong preventive action and invest in adaptation, climate change-related phenomena could push the total number of permanently displaced as high as 250 million people, between now and 2050. The report from CARE Danmark is based on the recent research of the linkages between climate change and migration.
The report outlines three scenarios for how different levels of temperature increase due to climate change will affect human migration and displacement.
The World Economic Forum has earlier pointed out, in its Global Risks Report 2016, the interconnected risks of failed climate adaptation and involuntary migration.
The “Fleeing Climate Change” report further substantiates how successful and continued adaptation is key to avoiding the human cost of migration. The report also finds that the number of people displaced from their homes due to the amplifying effects of climate change is on a stark rise and will continue to do so for decades to come.
The challenge is dual: There is increasing evidence that climate change impacts exacerbate risks of not only migration, but also of wider unrest and conflicts unfolding in weak and poor regions of the world. We have seen climate change appear as a threat-multiplier in the pretext to the war in Syria due to the prolonged drought that preceded the conflict. And recent years have demonstrated that even rich countries can be severely challenged as recipients of large scale migration.
It is therefore in the interest of everybody that root causes of migration - including climate change - are addressed forcefully and intelligently, and that their interlinkages with wider social stability needs are recognized and acted upon accordingly.
Some research suggests that a 2°C warming will lead to a 50 cm sea level rise, which - without any adaptation efforts – could force 72 million people to flee their homes over the century; additionally, many more will be forced to evacuate due to floods, storms, heat, drought, desertification, and conflict over resources.
3°C is the order of warming we are heading for with current pledges on climate action from governments, if they are actually met. Even higher increases are still a possibility. This scenario should be considered catastrophic climate change, with adverse impacts in many areas that would force large numbers of people in developing countries to flee their homes. There is likely to be a significantly greater number of international migrants, as some areas of the Middle East and Africa could become largely uninhabitable due to rising temperatures. Moreover, increasing droughts and desertification in Africa will further threaten food and
Rising sea levels, glacial retreat, and desertification – slow onset events ( excerpt from page 18-19)
• Slow-onset impacts are expected to force more people to migrate than extreme weather like storms and floods;
• Sea level rise poses a threat to the very existence of some low-lying island countries. In the long term, sea level rise at 2°C warming could submerge land that is currently home to 280 million people globally;
• Glacial retreat is particularly hard to deal with, as land is first flooded with excess glacial melt, and then extreme drought conditions can set in as the primary source of water disappears.
Increasing droughts, changing rainfall, more extreme weather events and higher temperatures are drivers of desertification
(World Bank 2014). Land classified as dry has more than doubled from 10-14 percent in 1950 to 1980, to 34 percent today. Yet, this 34 percent of land is a major source of food security. More than 1.5 billion people in the world depend on degrading land, and 74 percent of them are poor. Desertification and drought causes 12 million hectares of productive land to become barren every year, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain.12 It is difficult to see how the world will meet food demand from a growing population if productive land continues to decline. Once productive lands turn marginal, or become deserts, people will have no choice but to “fight or flight” (UNCCD 2014a).
Desertification causes loss of vegetation cover, soil erosion, dust storms, salinization, and a decrease in soil productivity, all of which contribute to a downward spiral that leads to a decrease in agricultural yields, loss of biodiversity, poverty, reduced human wellbeing, and migration (World Bank 2014).
Conflict and violence triggered by climate change
• Conflict over increasingly scarce resources and displaced people creates tensions, which can exacerbate violence;
• There is an overlap between areas that have suffered droughts and desertification and conflict in the last decade. It is estimated that a 5 percent change in rainfall in Sub-Saharan Africa increased the likelihood of conflict in the following year by 50 percent;
• Over a 60-year period, 40 percent of intrastate conflicts are associated with land and natural resources.