Forecasts of future climate-related migration

Forecasts of future climate-related migrations and population displacements vary considerably. Estimates are often given in terms of “environmental refugees”, a term that enjoys no formal recognition under international refugee law, but which generally describes involuntary migration stimulated by changes in environmental conditions, one subset of which includes changes in climate (Bates, 2002; El-Hinnawi, 1985; Westing, 1992). One oft-reproduced prediction from British ecologist Norman Myers suggests that there may be 200 million environmental refugees worldwide by mid- to late century, including many to be displaced by the impacts of climate change and related sea level rise (Myers, 2002). CARE International (2009) arrives at similar conclusions in a report produced in collaboration with the United Nations University- Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the latter organization having previously warned in 2005 that 50 million environmental refugees should be expected worldwide by 2010 (UNU-EHS, 2005; this prediction has yet to be validated). The relief organization Christian Aid (2007) has suggested that as many as 1 billion people will be displaced from their homes by mid-century from the combination of anthropogenic climate change and other global environmental changes. McGranahan et al. (2007) avoid making specific predictions, but have observed that 10 per cent of the world’s population lives within 10 metres of sea level, and is consequently exposed to the possibility of displacement by sea level rise.

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