WASHINGTON: A new World Bank Group report has found the worsening impacts of climate change in three densely populated regions of the world could see over 140 million people move within their countries’ borders by 2050, creating a looming humanitarian crisis and threatening the development process.
However, with concerted action – including global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and robust development planning at country level – this worst-case scenario could be reduced by as much as 80 per cent which is more than 100 million people.
The report, Groundswell – Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, is the first and most comprehensive study of its kind to focus on the nexus between slow-onset climate change impacts, internal migration patterns and development in three developing regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.
It finds that unless urgent climate and development action is taken at national and global levels, these three regions together could be dealing with millions of people migrating because of internal climate by 2050. These people will be forced to move due to growing problems like water scarcity, crop failure, sea-level rise and storm surges in increasingly non-viable areas of their countries to areas which are still thriving.
“These “climate migrants” would be an addition to the millions of people already moving within their countries for economic, social, political or other reasons,” the report warns. World Bank Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kristalina Georgieva said that the new research provides a wake-up call to countries and development institutions.
“We have a small window before the effects of climate change deepen, we have to prepare the ground for this new reality,” Georgieva said. “Steps cities take to cope with the upward trend of arrivals from rural areas and to improve opportunities for education, training and jobs will pay long-term dividends. It’s also important to help people make good decisions about whether to stay where they are or move to new locations where they are less vulnerable.”
The research team led by World Bank Lead Environmental Specialist (LES) Kanta Kumari Rigaud and including researchers, modellers from CIESIN Columbia University, CUNY Institute of Demographic Research, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – applied a multi-dimensional modelling approach to estimate the potential scale of internal climate migration across the three regions.
They looked at three potential climate change and development scenarios, comparing the most “pessimistic” (high greenhouse gas emissions and unequal development paths), to “climate-friendly” and “inclusive development” scenarios in which climate and national development action increases in line with the challenge. Across each scenario, they applied demographic, socioeconomic and climate impact data at a 14-square kilometre grid-cell level to model likely shifts in population within countries.
This approach identified major “hotspots” of climate in and out-migration areas from which people are expected to move and urban, peri-urban and rural areas to which people will try to move in order to build new lives and livelihoods.
“Without the right planning and support, people migrating from rural areas into cities could be facing new and even more dangerous risks,” said the report’s team lead Kanta Kumari Rigaud. “We could see increased tensions and conflict as a result of pressure on scarce resources. But, that doesn’t have to be the future. While internal climate migration is becoming a reality, it won’t be a crisis if we plan for it now.”