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Climate Change Could Cause Human Migration By 2050

June 10, 2009

Climate change could result in massive displacements by mid-century, according to a new report from climate change experts at Columbia University, the United Nations University and CARE International.

“Unless aggressive measures are taken to halt global warming, the consequences for human migration and displacement could reach a scope and scale that vastly exceed anything that has occurred before,” researchers wrote in the report “In Search of Shelter”.

“Climate change is already contributing to migration and displacement.”

“All major estimates project that the trend will rise to tens of millions of migrants in coming years. Within the next few decades, the consequences of climate change for human security efforts could be devastating.”

The study cited an estimate from the International Organization for Migration of 200 million migrants from environmental causes by 2050. The report added that some estimates reach as high as 700 million.

The report was issued to journalists during a press conference in Bonn, where UN climate talks are underway.

“In the densely populated Ganges, Mekong, and Nile River deltas, a sea level rise of 1 meter could affect 23.5 million people and reduce the land currently under intensive agriculture by at least 1.5 million hectares,” researchers wrote.

Authors concluded that added funding would be needed in lesser-developed countries in order to weaken the impact of climate change on human migration.

“These funds must be new and additional to existing commitments, such as those for Official Development Assistance,” they wrote.

Authors found that the migration would likely see people in poorer nations moving from the countryside to cities, adding more stress to the urban infrastructure.

“This has a lot of consequences for agricultural production in one of the world’s most populous regions,” said Charles Ehrhart, climate-change coordinator at CARE.

A global sea rise of seven feet could cause 9.4 million people to be “completely flooded out,” said Ehrhart.

Additionally, 40 island states face threat of completely disappearing if sea rise reaches six feet.

“Climate is the envelope in which all of us lead our daily lives. This report sounds warning bells,” said coauthor Alexander de Sherbinin, a geographer at Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

“We usually categorize the poor as the ones who will suffer most but richer societies will potentially lose as well.”

“New thinking and practical approaches are needed to address the threats that climate-related migration poses to human security and well-being,” said coauthor Koko Warner, head of the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.

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