Estimates predict that, by the 2080s, between 50 million and 200 million people will be displaced from their homes directly because of climate change.
Those especially affected will be people in low-lying coastal areas of poorer countries that lack resources to protect themselves from rising sea levels (see Rising sea levels are inevitable, say researchers).
In this letter in Nature, Sujatha Byravan of the Council for Responsible Genetics and Sudhir Chella Rajan of the Tellus Institute, both in the United States, propose a way of minimising the risk of a massive refugee crisis.
They suggest that the countries most responsible for climate change — the developed nations that have emitted the most greenhouse gases — should take responsibility for hosting those displaced by climate change.
The authors call for an international framework to be created under which the proportion of a country's total greenhouse gas emissions should determine how many climate change exiles it is bound to take in.
Making international plans to meet the needs of climate change refugees will be easier now than later, they say.