Report Finds Climate Change a Detectable Driver of Migration

For Immediate Release

CARE
Contact: 

Brian Feagans, CARE, bfeagans@care.org, +1.404.979.9453,+1.404.457.4644

Report Finds Climate Change a Detectable Driver of Migration

Some 200 million people could be on the move due to climate change by 2050

ATLANTA, Georgia - 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,
according to a report released today during climate change talks in
Germany.

Climate change is already contributing to migration
and displacement, the report from CARE, U.N. University and Columbia
University found. 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, according to the report entitled, In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement.

The
report was authored by CARE, U.N. University's Institute for
Environment and Human Security, and Columbia University's Center for
International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). It was
released to the media today during the Bonn Climate Change Talks under
the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The
exact number of people that will be on the move by mid-century is
uncertain. The International Organization for Migration estimates that
there may be 200 million environmentally-induced migrants by 2050.
''While human migration and displacement is usually the result of
multiple factors, the influence of climate change in people's decision
to give up their livelihoods and leave their homes is growing,'' says
Dr. Charles Ehrhart, CARE's climate change coordinator and one of the
report's authors.

Mexico and the Central American countries
are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change both in
terms of less rainfall and more extreme weather, such as hurricanes and
floods. Rainfall in some areas is expected to decline by as much as 50
per cent by 2080, rendering many local livelihoods unviable and
dramatically raising the risk of chronic hunger.

''The
potential impacts of future sea level rise are at least as startling.
In Vietnam's densely populated Mekong River Delta, for example, a sea
level rise of two meters would - assuming current populations densities
- flood the homes of more than 14.2 million people and submerge half of
the region's agricultural land,'' Ehrhart adds.

Other maps in
the report show the impacts of: glacier melt in the Himalayas; drying
trends in West Africa; sea level rise in the Ganges River Delta; and
sea level rise in the Nile River Delta.

Most displaced people
will seek shelter in their own countries while others cross borders.
Some displacement and migration may be prevented through the
implementation of adaptation measures. However, poorer countries are
under-equipped to support widespread adaptation. As a result, societies
affected by climate change may find themselves locked into a downward
spiral of ecological degradation, causing social safety nets to
collapse while tensions and violence rise. In this all-too-plausible
worst-case scenario, large populations would be forced to migrate as a
matter of immediate survival. Gender roles, as well as cultural
prescriptions and prohibitions, can make it impossible for women and
female headed-households to migrate in response to environmental change
even if migration would be a case of survival.

''New
thinking and practical approaches are needed to address the threats
that climate-related migration poses to human security and
well-being,'' says Dr. Koko Warner, Head of Section of the UN
University's Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and
lead author of the report.

People have always relied on
long- and short-term migration as ways of dealing with climatic
changes. The challenge is to better understand the dynamics of
climate-related migration and displacement and incorporate human
mobility into international and national plans for adapting to climate
change.

The new report provides empirical evidence from a
first-time, multi-continent survey as well as policy recommendations
and an analysis of both the threats and potential solutions. Original
maps show climate change impacts and population distribution patterns.
''Migration needs to be recognized as not being negative per se, but a
sometimes necessary response to the negative impacts of climate change.
The policy decisions we make today will determine whether migration can
be a choice, a pro-active adaptation measure, or whether migration and
displacement is the tragic proof of our collective failure to provide
better alternatives,'' Warner concludes.

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