Agriculture Climate Development

Climate Change predicted to force over 216 million people’s migration within their own countries by 2050

Effects of climate change

By Joyce Mukucha

A new report by the World Bank (WB) has revealed that climate change is an increasingly powerful driver of migration which could force 216 million people across six world regions to move within their countries by 2050.

“Climate change is a powerful driver of internal migration because of its impacts on people’s livelihoods and loss of livability in highly exposed locations. By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants; East Asia and the Pacific, 49 million; South Asia, 40 million; North Africa, 19 million; Latin America, 17 million; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 5 million.

“Hotspots of internal climate migration could emerge as early as 2030 and continue to spread and intensify by 2050,” said the report.

The report highlighted that immediate and concerted action to reduce global emissions, and support green, inclusive, and resilient development, could reduce the scale of climate migration by as much as 80 percent.

“Climate migration is ‘human face’ of climate change thus regional and national governments and the global community are called upon to act now to reduce greenhouse gases, close development gaps, and restore ecosystems. Taking action now could cut climate migration by 80%.”

Kanta Kumari Rigaud, the bank’s lead environment specialist and one of the report’s co-authors said, “We have to reduce or cut our greenhouse gases to meet the Paris target because those climate impacts are going to escalate and increase the scale of climate migration.”

The Vice President of Sustainable Development, World Bank, Juergen Voegele said the Groundswell report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on the world’s poorest- those who are contributing the least to its causes.

“It also clearly lays out a path for countries to address some of the key factors that are causing climate-driven migration. All these issues are fundamentally connected which is why our support to countries is positioned to deliver on climate and development objectives together while building a more sustainable, safe, and resilient future,” said Voegele.

The updated report includes projections and analysis for three regions: East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

It builds on the novel and pioneering modeling approach of the previous World Bank Groundswell report from 2018, which covered Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

By deploying a scenario-based approach, the report explores potential future outcomes, which can help decision-makers plan ahead.

The approach allows for the identification of internal climate in- and out-migration hotspots, namely the areas from which people are expected to move due to increasing water scarcity, declining crop productivity, and sea-level rise, and urban and rural areas with better conditions to build new livelihoods.

WB pointed out that conflicts and health and economic crises such as those posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic could fuel the situation.

The report provides a series of policy recommendations that can help slow the factors driving climate migration and prepare for expected migration flows, including:

Reducing global emissions and making every effort to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, embedding internal climate migration in far-sighted green, resilient, and inclusive development planning, preparing for each phase of migration, so that internal climate migration as an adaptation strategy can result in positive development outcomes and investing in better understanding of the drivers of internal climate migration to inform well-targeted policies.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende