Climate Refugees Could Number 1 Billion by 2050

climate refugees photo
Climate refugees in central Zimbabwe. Photo via EcoWorldy

While the disastrous consequences of climate change may seem a ways off for some in the developed world, the International Organization for Migration reported today that it has already driven an estimated 24 million people from their homes--a number, they warned, that could rise to as high a billion people by 2050.

In most cases, these "Climate Refugees" are fleeing rural regions stricken by desertification, water pollution, and famine--problems caused directly or made worse by global warming--and heading into already crowded cities. As these factors become more common with the rise of temperatures in the coming years, the effect of these mass migrations on hard-hit regions will be devastating and eventually become worldwide. The research sites that the number of people affected by natural disasters has more than doubled in the last 20 years as being a major cause of the migrations. Those impacted most are the poor, who have no means of migrating internationally, which tends to drive internal movement, namely into urban centers--many of which are unequipped to handle the influx.

As time goes on and the situation becomes more dire, these climate refugees may be ending up at the doorstep of the world's wealthier nations, so says the report:

While acknowledging that the impact of climate change on migration is predominantly internal movement, international migration is nevertheless likely to be increasingly important in the future and will necessitate policy and program responses that are currently lacking.

The release of this report was timed by the IOM to coincide with the climate change conference in Copenhagen and will no doubt be a source of sober consideration for the leaders assembled there. And, with any luck, such startling figures about projected migrations due climate change will silence any who question its seriousness.
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