Extreme weather events, many of which are rooted in climate change, could displace some 216 million people within their own countries by 2050, finds a new study from the World Bank. And that is only in poorer countries. Another study estimates that every additional day each year with an average temperature of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit adds nearly 1% to the number of climate migrants. Added to the tens of millions of people who have fled war or political strife – as witnessed in Afghanistan – solutions to forced migration are more urgent than ever.
The World Bank’s new research, titled Groundswell 2.0, offers this suggestion: If governments take quick remedial action they could cut internal migration, and the hardships it brings, by as much as 60% to 80%. The action most needed would be to reduce worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. A United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is scheduled to be held in early November in Glasgow, Scotland, a follow-up to the Paris climate accords of 2015.
As governments struggle to pledge and keep promises to reduce emissions, the World Bank says concurrent steps can be taken to build resiliency and fend off the worst effects of climate migration. These include ways to help people stay in their homes, as well as to help in their movement to and resettlement in new locations.
In Egypt, for example, parts of the Nile delta are projected to be places of out-migration. Several cities, including Cairo, should expect to receive these refugees. The report notes that planners could identify places most likely to be hit hardest by climate change and help more climate-resilient areas prepare to take in migrants.
Many other ways to help ease climate migration are available. More drought-resistant crops, for example, are being developed that could help keep farmers home. Rooftop water harvesting can be used to irrigate fields.
In some villages in India where water harvesting and other water conservation methods are being undertaken, climate migration has been reversed and migrants are returning to their homes, says Sunita Narain, director general of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, in a recent interview with The Times of India. “It is essential to invest in building local climate resilience and protecting community economies,” she added.
Ways to mitigate climate migration are becoming well known. Even as nations try to curb carbon emissions, they can also put measures in place to solve the rising displacement of people by weather disasters.