Climate Change Could Force 200 Million Migrations

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A supporter holds a banner reading 'Take climate change seriously - no more compromise'
A supporter holds a banner reading 'Take climate change seriously - no more compromise'

Climate change could force more than 200 million people to migrate from various regions of the world by 2050 unless immediate action is taken to address global emissions, according to a report Monday from the World Bank.

People may be forced to move from their homes for a number of reasons such as water scarcity, low crop production, rising sea levels, land loss, extreme heat, and extreme weather. 

The most heavily affected regions would be Latin America, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, South, Central, and East Asia, and the Pacific. The report finds that Sub-Saharan and North Africa would see a combined 105 million people migrate, with 86 million coming from Sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas East and South Asia would see a combined 89 million people migrate. 

The worst-case scenario would result in 216 million people being forced to migrate from their homes due to the effects of climate change. If drastic action were to be immediately taken, the best result would still see 44 million people leaving their homes. 

The Groundswell report states the number of people being forced to migrate could be reduced by 80% if swift, immediate action is taken to reduce climate emissions. 

The findings “reaffirm the potency of climate to induce migration within countries,” said Viviane Wei Chen Clement, a senior climate change specialist at the World Bank and one of the report’s authors.

“This is our humanitarian reality right now and we are concerned this is going to be even worse, where vulnerability is more acute,” Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, told the Associated Press

Aalst added that the impacts are happening faster than initially anticipated “including the extremes we are already experiencing, as well as potential implications for migration and displacement.” 

“Globally we know that three out of four people who move will stay within countries,” said Dr. Kanta Kumari Rigaud, lead environmental specialist at the World Bank and co-author of the report. 

The people who are most affected by inequality are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and will limit their means to adapt. The report warns that global hotspots could appear in the next decade and intensify by 2050. Planning will be necessary for areas they evacuate, and areas they move to. 

In order to greatly mitigate the damage of climate change, society will need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 “to have a chance at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, and investing in development that is green, resilient, inclusive, and in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.”

The worst-case scenario is still possible if bold action is not taken within the next decade, according to Clement and Rigaud.

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