Climate-induced migration – three reasons why it matters

Yesterday COP21 has started in Paris. COP21 is the 21st edition of the Convention of Parties. World leaders come together during this event and try to agree on solutions on how to tackle climate change. Many topics have already been pre-negotiated and many countries have already sent in their pledges of what they aim to achieve in the field of climate change.

However, climate-induced migration is currently not a hot discussion topic yet. This blog post will outline three reasons as why it is important to start addressing this issue.

  1. Climate-induced migration is happening now

In a previous blog post I wrote about the island nation of Kiribati, which is on the verge of disappearing into the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, many more islands are just only a few metres above sea level. Among those island nations are Tuvalu, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Antigua and Nevis, the Maldives and the Marshall Islands. Not only islands are affected, Bangladesh is one of the countries ranked most vulnerable to climate change. Just recently, the JustJobs network has released its research on the link between livelihoods and climate change. Their results have been published in the report ‘The Changing Climate of Livelihoods’. This report sums up the harmful effects of climate change – such as floods and cyclones – that will affect people living in the low-lying Delta region of Bangladesh.

  1. Climate change affects the poor

The world’s poorest are disproportionally affected by climate change. Least developed countries are most affected as they have fewer means with which to adapt. Ironically, developing nations do not have a history of large emissions of green house gases and have thus not made a significant contribution to the causes of climate change. Failing crops, ailing livestock and conflicts over resources are driving people elsewhere, displacing them.

  1. It is argued that climate change is a cause for conflict

Though this one is somewhat controversial, for the sake of discourse, I will discuss it anyway. In 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Sudan’s Darfur region as a climate change conflict. He stated that: “The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis arising at least in part from climate change”. It was assumed that water scarcity caused by changed rainfall patterns (because of climate change) contributed to the conflict in Darfur. Though more recent research proves that this might be actually not so true, since rainfall actually increased leading up to the conflict. Closer to date, it has been argued that the cause of conflict in Syria is climate change related, President Obama, US Senator Sanders and Prince Charles back this theory. The gist of it being that because of drought in the years leading up to the Arab Spring, triggered the conflict to surge in Syria, thus leading to the current refugee crisis. As said earlier this hypothesis is controversial.

As for COP21, mitigating the effects of climate change will be crucial in protecting people, livelihoods and communities. The time is now to act.

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Rene Perey

Rene Perey