1 Billion People Could Be Climate Refugees By 2050.

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If all the glaciers and ice sheets on the planet melt, the global sea level rises by about 70 meters. This amount of water causes flooding in almost all coastal cities in the world. Rising temperatures, polar melting ice, drought, desertification, and other devastating effects of climate change are not examples of future problems, but today’s realities. Climate change is not just about the environment; Its effects touch every aspect of our lives, from the stability of our government and economy to where we live and to our health.

Where would you go if a flood destroyed your city? Millions of people around the world have been forced to answer this question. 68.5 million people were displaced in 2017. – the largest in human history, according to the Brookings Institution. – More than a third of these; It was uprooted by sudden weather events, floods, forest fires, and intense storms. A 2018 report by the World Bank focusing on three regions – Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America – said that without a concrete operational effort, more than 143 million people in these three regions alone would be forced to move to escape the effects of climate change in that region by 2050.

But more than 1 billion people worldwide will live in countries that do not have the infrastructure to withstand climate change by 2050. The Pacific Islands in particular are expected to be hit hard. Sea level is already rising by about 12 millimeters a year. Eight islands have already been flooded, and two are very close to extinction. Experts fear that 48 more islands in the Pacific will be completely inundated by 2100.

So what will happen to the people who live there? What do we call these people who will be displaced?

This is a complicated situation. Since there is no global definition of this situation, it is difficult to determine in which category these migrants should be classified.

So why is this important?

Without a standard classification method, there is no way to trace how many people are affected or displaced by environmental and climatic events. That is why the term most commonly used is “environmental refugees”.

Experts use this term and its definition; It is indebted to Essam El-Hinnawi, a UN environmental program researcher, who wrote the United Nations report titled “environmental refugees” in 1985. El-Hinnawi defines environmental refugees as:

‘… These people are due to significant environmental degradation that endangers their existence and seriously affects their quality of life; they were forced to abandon their traditional living spaces temporarily or permanently. “

This working definition has been the basis for current discussions:

But in 1951, a refugee according to the Geneva Refugee Convention; People who are unable or unwilling to return to their hometown because of fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion [source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]. Environmental refugees are not legally included in this status.

How Do Climate Change Change People’s Places?

The reason environmental refugees flee their homes is a complex combination of environmental problems and desperate socioeconomic situations. People leave their homes when their agricultural livelihoods and security are compromised. What effects of climate change put them at risk? Climate change triggers desertification and drought, deforestation, land degradation, rising sea levels, floods, more frequent and extreme storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, food insecurity, and famine, among other problems.

The most affected populations in the Ecological Threat Registration Report made by the Institute of Economy and Peace:

Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Middle East, and North Africa
Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India, and Pakistan (They are among the least peaceful places in the world.)
Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Iran are the places most at risk for mass displacements.
Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
China and India will be among countries with extreme water stress
Moreover, the report suggests that developed countries such as the United States and regions such as Europe are not immune. “The European refugee crisis after the wars in Syria and Iraq in 2015 caused 2 million people to migrate to Europe and highlighted the link between rapid population changes and social unrest and political turmoil.” According to the report, developed countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Ireland face few threats.

Climate Change Does Not Affect Everywhere in the Same Way

Climate change does not affect all people and all parts of the world in the same direction. While floods wash down some areas, desertification begins to spread in other regions. Depleted resources such as desertification and scarcity of water and fertile land are long-term consequences of climate change.

“Economic threats and climate change will cause major problems in global peace,” said Steve Killelea, founder and chairman of the board of directors of the economic and peace institute, “Economic threats and climate change will cause major problems in global peace,” and “the lack of access to food and water for the next 30 years will increase unless there is global aid. . Unless something is done; Civil unrest, rebellion, and conflict are very likely to increase. Already, Covid-19 reveals gaps in the global food chain. ” said.

The report suggested that the global demand for food will increase by 50% by 2050. This is if there is no increase in the amount of food; it means that many people may starve or be forced to migrate in search of food. Currently, more than 2 billion people worldwide are already suffering from food shortages.

Faced with the obligation to migrate, many people want to stay in their own country or region. Leaving a country requires money and may mean leaving the family; it may be easier to move from rural to urban only to find jobs and resources. Besides, if the family leaves the country completely; they can’t return and settle back home. In some cases, if the area is still viable after a devastating hurricane; Going back home might be an option. But if the coastlines – or entire islands – are submerged, the prospect of returning home should not be conceivable.

Future impacts of climate change

It will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries, but it will also put pressure on countries around the world due to the mass migration of refugees. Among other protections, adaptation and resilience, early warning systems and flood defense infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and drought-resistant crops will also be key to reducing the risk of displacement – both temporary and permanent.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration that strengthens the scope of the climate story.


The best-known example of human migration in the United States took place during the dust storm of the 1930s called the Dust Bowl. Poor farming practices, coupled with environmental and economic crises, left millions of acres of land barren and millions of people poor. About a third of the Great Plains farmers, called the Okies, gathered their families and headed for California to escape drought, dust clouds, and winds, and find jobs for migrant workers.