Environment

Will Climate Change Affect Migration?


Multi-American News Report

Sep 07, 2011- Will climate change contribute to migration in the future as people are displaced? Many experts believe so, and the Migration Policy Institute is the latest to produce a report detailing how.

According to the report, climate change stands to displace people in a number of countries as weather changes affect basic necessities like the food and water supply. The countries most vulnerable to climate change affecting the qualify of life for their citizens are Bangladesh and India; other countries deemed vulnerable include Madagascar, Nepal, Mozambique, the Philippines, Haiti, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Burma and Mexico.

How does climate change displace people? Higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, severe storms and rising sea levels can affect the production of crops, limit access to clean water and contribute to the spread of disease. Major weather disasters can and have driven people abroad after losing their shelter and possessions. For example, after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in 1998, many survivors who had lost everything headed north, leading U.S. officials to grant them temporary protected status.

From the MPI report:

Whether singly or in combination, these forces will have a profound effect on human settlement patterns, food and water security, the spread of water- or vector-borne diseases, and competition for nonextractive resources (possibly leading to violent conflict). Each of these can lead to migration directly, as people try to escape the negative effects, or indirectly, as people flee resulting violent conflict or political instability.

Long-term projections of the primary effects of climate change are subject to considerable uncertainty. According to World Bank estimates, if the sea level rises by one meter by the end of this century, 37 million people in East Asia will be affected. Shorter-term projections can be more confident, although the possibility of more rapid global warming than is currently foreseen cannot be ruled out.

Those worried about a surge in inbound migration to the U.S. as the planet heats up needn’t lose sleep, however. According to the report, the bulk of the moving around as people are displaced will most likely take place within the nations and regions affected.

Such is already the case in regions such as West Africa, where drought sends people to urban centers to find work, a practice known as "eating the dry season," according to a 2008 report on climate and migration from the International Organization for Migration. That report predicted several scenarios, dependent on the severity of climate change in the future.

The new Migration Policy Institute report can be downloaded at http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/climatechange-2011.pdf

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