A World Bank report has found climate change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes in the next three decades and create migration hotspots unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions.
The impacts of climate change upon such as water scarcity, decreasing crop productivity and rising sea levels could lead to millions of what the report describes as “climate migrants” by 2050 under three different scenarios with varying degrees of climate action and development.
Under the most pessimistic scenario, with a high level of emissions and unequal development, the report forecasts up to 216 million people moving within their own countries across the six regions analyzed. Those regions are Latin America; North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; South Asia; and East Asia and the Pacific. The worst-case scenario is “plausible” if collective action to reduce emissions and invest in development isn’t taken, especially in the next decade.
In the most climate-friendly scenario, with a low level of emissions and inclusive, sustainable development, the number of migrants could be as much as 80% lower but still result in the move of 44 million people.
A more inclusive development scenario, which is the middle scenario will mean 91 million displaced by climate change.
In the worst-case scenario, Sub-Saharan Africa — the most vulnerable region due to desertification, fragile coastlines and the population’s dependence on agriculture — would see the most movement, with up to 86 million climate migrants moving within national borders. North Africa, however, is predicted to have the largest proportion of climate migrants, with 19 million people moving, equivalent to roughly 9% of its total population, due mainly to increased water scarcity.
Bangladesh is particularly affected by flooding and crop failures accounting for almost half of the predicted climate migrants, with 19.9 million people, including an increasing share of women, moving by 2050 under the pessimistic scenario.
The report did not look at climate migration across borders.
“Globally we know that three out of four people that move stay within countries,” said Dr. Kanta Kumari Rigaud, a lead environmental specialist at the World Bank and co-author of the report.
Still, migration patterns from rural to urban areas often precede movements across borders.
The media focus on the worst-case scenario because disasters make good reporting but even the optimistic alternative means misery and suffering for many millions of people.