World, Environment

Climate refugees: Forgotten migrants in environment

Since 2008, average of 26.4M people displaced from their homes annually by extreme weather disasters, says activist

Burak Bir   | 24.10.2019
Climate refugees: Forgotten migrants in environment ( Yander Zamora - Агенција Анадолија )

ANKARA

Climate change is causing millions of people to migrate from their homelands, according to a climate activist.

"Steadily worsening climate-related disasters such as droughts, floods, famines, and rising sea levels are increasing internal and external displacements as people leave their homes in search of safety and better livelihoods," said Kim Bryan, associate director of 350 movement.

In an email interview with Anadolu Agency, Bryan said that persecution, violence and human rights violations are also amplified by the climate crisis around the world.

"The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world," she said.

She went on to say that it is estimated that by 2050 the number of displaced people by climate change-related impacts will rise to 200 million.

She said that people around the world are driven from their lands by droughts, storms, food shortages as well as political, economic strife and conflicts which are also usually intensified by climate disasters.

"Drought, soil erosion, coastal erosion, desalinization, sea level rise, desertification lead to water and food shortages, land and resource disputes, loss of agricultural land and household income in slow onset level, while floods, storms, storm surges, tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruption cause devastation and destruction, loss of life, house and belongings in sudden onset level," she said, distinguishing the effects of climate change at two levels.


Climate breakdown

Mentioning the geographical dimension of climate effects, she said that climate breakdown affects communities and regions differently.

In Central America, for instance, climate change has exacerbated the effects of the "dry corridor" leading to long term drought and food insecurity, while many Pacific Island nations are facing the possibility of the complete loss of their lands as sea levels rise.

Additionally, she said that Mexico has been facing drought for decades which is leading to a loss of agricultural productivity.

"[...] Estimating that by 2080, climate change-induced migration from Mexico could lead to the migration of 6.7 million people."

Speaking about Africa, she said: "As temperatures rise globally, droughts are increasing across the continent and destabilizing local food systems."

She added that seven of the 10 most vulnerable nations to climate change are in Africa.

Bryan also added that fossil fuels are one of the key triggers of climate change "with over 70% of global emissions coming from just 100 companies" which are the responsibility of coal, oil, and gas executives as well as the corporations they work for.


What should be done?

"Fighting climate breakdown is about much more than emissions and scientific metrics -- it’s about fighting for a just and sustainable world that works for all of us.

"Building the just world we need means we must fight for policies that ensure people displaced by the impacts of the climate crisis are welcomed, their human rights respected, and their ability to build new homes are supported," she said.

350.org was founded in 2008 by a group of university students in the U.S. along with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben. The group espouses the goal to shift 100% to publicly owned renewables and tackling the climate crisis.

The group, which works in 188 countries across the world, was named after the aim of reaching the safe concentration of 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere.

* This story is the first of a three-part series

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