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In the coming decades, climate change will motivate or force millions of people to leave their homes in search of viable lifestyles and safety. As climate-induced sea level rise and natural disaster incidents increase, there will be millions of people who may be temporarily or permanently displaced. By 2050, when the human population is projected to peak, there will be approximately 9 billion people on Earth, further increasing the population density of major coastal cities.1

By this same time, most scientists estimate that there will be over 200 million climate refugees on earth,4 or people forced to move from their homeland due to sudden or long term changes in climate.3 Climate change is expected to aggravate many existing migratory pressures around the world, including sea level rise, changes in rainfall (which could result in desertification or flooding), glacial melting, and extreme weather events and human disasters.5  Climate-induced droughts, floods, and disease are also projected to increase the number of sudden humanitarian crises and disasters in areas least able to cope, such as area that are already in poverty or prone to conflict.3 In addition, more erratic weather will exacerbate both migration pressures and environmental degradation.1


Individuals from Bangladesh are migrating due to rising water levels.  Image: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e4a5096.html   

Migration can represent a response to changing environmental and economic conditions. The climate-induced environmental changes and the economic strains that will come with them will especially hurt people in the least developed countries, where the governments are underequipped to support widespread adaption.1 This adaption may be necessary to prevent some climate-induced displacement and migration.1 In the past, environmental factors have had an impact on global migration flows, as people have historically left places with harsh or deteriorating conditions. However, the scale of these flows, both internal and cross-border, is expected to rise as a result of accelerated climate change, with unprecedented impacts on millions of lives and livelihoods.2


Relationship of climate change to potential population movements. The question mark after “Conflict” refers to the much debated topic regarding whether the effects of climate change, such as changes in food yields or population movement, will increase violent conflict. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104375/ 


Migration, climate change, and the environment are all interrelated. Just as environmental degradation and disasters can cause migration, the movement of people can also have significant effects on the environment. For example, urban areas attract migrants seeking better lives. This high immigration contributes to crowding, environmental and sanitation issues in slums and other densely populated areas.1 Studies also point towards urbanization as a force driving regional warming, which can exacerbate warming trends, among other pressing issues.1 Besides the potential for the overcrowding of the city slums, many major cities also face the threat of flood inundation posed by future sea level rise. Many people may be forced to temporarily or permanently leave their homes and businesses in coastal cities such as New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, and Los Angeles.1


A number of factors can force people to migrate permanently or
temporarily from their homes and businesses including
droughts. http://migrationeducation.de/56.0.html




  1. Warner, Koko; Ehrhart, Charles; de Sherbinin, Alex; Adamo, Susana; Chai-Onn, Tricia. In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement. CARE International, 2009. Print.
  2. http://www.iom.int/cms/envmig
  3. http://americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2012/01/03/10857/climate-change-migration-and-conflict/
  4. http://www.iisd.org/publications/pub.aspx?pno=954
  5. http://www.migrationinformation.org/feature/display/cfm?ID=773
  6. Climate Central: www.climatecentral.org
  7. An Ill Wind? Climate Change, Migration, and Health: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104375/ 


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