Since 2008, an estimated 24 million people have been displaced due to climate change every year. These are climate change refugees, and their numbers are increasing.
The creation of climate refugees, also known as environmental refugees, is one of the main problems of climate change. Desertification, drought, rising temperatures, natural disasters due to extreme weather and flooding are forcing ever greater numbers of people from their homes, sending them on an uncertain migration to any place safer.
In addition to extreme events like floods and wildfires, climate change affects crops, livestock, property and natural resources in a multitude of ways that can make it impossible for residents to continue to thrive in their communities. In some cases, the land itself is falling into the sea.
The World Bank made a report in 2018 stating that three regions will have the most refugees if the climate disasters continue: Southeast-Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. These regions are projected to produce 143 million climate refugees by 2050.
Hurricanes are also displacing people. In March 2019, a tropical cyclone, Cyclone Idai, hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi displacing millions of people, damaging more than 100,000 homes and destroying acres of crops.
“At first, we woke up to the sound of the wind and after the water came streaming into our house,” said Rafael Domingo, a father of four in Mozambique, after Cyclone Idai destroyed his home. “We only managed to grab our children and run away to an area that lies on higher ground.”
According to Refugees International, there are now about 70 million people that lost their homes. Organizations are trying their best to provide care for the refugees who lost their property due to climate impacts. There is no international law stating governments need to accept climate refugees. The laws governing refugees were written to deal with political violence, not natural disasters.
There are other developing countries that do not get enough help to prevent migration increases. The U.S Government Accountability Office found out that the State Department and other foreign aid agencies have not done enough to help reduce migration in developing countries.
Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, due to its geography, is one populous nation especially vulnerable to flooding. It holds one of the largest amounts of climate refugees because of its vulnerability. Tasneem Siddiqui, a political scientist who leads the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit at the University of Dhaka, says the government is not doing enough to deal with the issue and it is putting a huge strain on the city of Dhaka which is a destination for many refugees.
“Right now the government’s vision is to have no vision. It’s just that everything is in Dhaka, and people are all coming to Dhaka,” Siddiqui said. “And Dhaka is collapsing.”
Image Credit: Environmental Justice Foundation(EJF)