World News Day: Climate change is uprooting millions of people

Farmers in Southeast Madagascar have been victims of the "Kere" phenomenon, a food crisis due to a period of intense drought that stops the cultivation of crops for several months each year.
Farmers in Southeast Madagascar have been victims of the "Kere" phenomenon, a food crisis due to a period of intense drought that stops the cultivation of crops for several months each year.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS - Growing numbers of people around the world, most of them poor, are being uprooted from their homes due to climate change.

Last year, more than 40 million people were uprooted due to conflict and disasters, the highest figure in 10 years, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Disasters, mostly weather-related such as storms, floods and wild fires, triggered more than three times more displacements than conflict and violence in 2020.

"Increasingly, we are seeing climate change become an engine of migration, forcing individuals, families and even whole communities to seek more viable and less vulnerable places to live," said former World Bank chief Kristalina Georgieva.

If no action is taken, there will be more than 143 million internal climate migrants across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America by 2050, according to a 2018 World Bank report.

"The poorest people will be forced to move due to slow-onset climate change impacts, including decreasing crop productivity, shortage of water and rising sea level," the report said.

But, it added: "If we act now, we could reduce the number of people forced to move due to climate change by as much as 80 per cent."

Experts say fears that climate change will drive vulnerable people across their borders are misplaced as the vast majority of climate migrants move within their own countries.

The triggers for climate migration are mainly water availability, decreased crop productivity and rising sea levels coupled with storm surges.

Each of these climate migration drivers can have secondary and tertiary effects, including conflict over resources, increased poverty and famine, and long-term environmental degradation.