Swift Climate Action Could Prevent 80% of Domestic Migration by 2050

Empty boat slips during a drought at Folsom Lake Marina in El Dorado Hills, California, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Swift Climate Action Could Prevent 80% of Domestic Migration by 2050

Climate change effects like drought and sea level rise could result in more than 216 million people migrating within their own countries by mid-century, according to a World Bank report released on Monday.

As much as 80% of that could be prevented with swift action to cut emissions, the report found. Countries have to “close development gaps, restore vital ecosystems, and help people adapt,” World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Juergen Voegele wrote. If they don’t, “hotspots of climate migration will emerge as soon as within the next decade and intensify by 2050.”

Global warming is already causing destruction around the world and the poorest regions are being hit the hardest. Keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century would help reduce internal climate migration, the report found, with average temperatures currently on track to increase at least 3°C by 2050.

In many places, internal climate migration will amplify patterns already unfolding. The number of people who migrated domestically in 2020 due to extreme weather events rose to 30.7 million, or 75% of the total, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

Swift Climate Action Could Prevent 80% of Domestic Migration by 2050

The World Bank’s report is the first to estimate internal migration in three different climate scenarios across six regions—East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. The report doesn’t cover most high-income countries, including Europe and North America, and also excludes the Middle East and Small Island Developing States.

The 216 million internal migrants by 2050 projected under the most pessimistic scenario represent almost 3% of the population of the regions affected. Under the most optimistic scenario, more than 110 million people would be forced to move within their own countries by mid-century.

Of the six regions analyzed, Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to have the largest number of internal climate migrants—as many as 85 million— while North Africa could have the largest share of internal migrants relative to its total population. Impacts in North and Sub-Saharan Africa will mostly be related to severe water scarcity and the sea-level rise in densely populated coastal areas like the Nile Delta.

Places in these regions with better water availability are expected to become climate immigration hotspots. These include Cairo, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Casablanca, Rabat and Tangiers, the report found.

Bangladesh will be one of the countries most impacted by climate change, with up to 19.9 million internal climate migrants projected by mid-century, almost half the total internal climate migrants for the entire South Asia region. There, the main drivers for people’s displacement are expected to be sea-level rise and storm surges.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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