Climate change forcing internal migration – World Bank

India climate change
Residents of the Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal are severely affected by the rising sea levels Copyright: Panos

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  • By 2050, climate change could turn 140 million people into internal migrants
  • This could be reduced to 31 million if proper action is taken, says WB
  • Among the recommendations are cutting GhG emissions, investing in data collection

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[MANILA] Climate change could force over 140 million people in South Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa to migrate within their countries' borders by 2050, says a new World Bank (WB) report.
The report, published March, focused on the intersection between slow-onset climate change impacts, internal migration patterns, and development. Researchers looked at three potential climate change and development scenarios: “pessimistic” (high greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions and unequal development pathways),  “more inclusive development” (high emissions but improved development pathways), and “more climate-friendly” (lower global emissions with unequal development). They then applied demographic, socioeconomic, and climate impact data at a 14-square kilometre grid-cell level to each scenario to model likely shifts in population.  
At worst, the number of internal climate migrants could go beyond 143 million by 2050. In contrast, only 31—72 million are projected to migrate within that period across these regions in the “more climate-friendly” scenario. Regardless of the situation, the most affected are the poorest citizens and the poorest countries.

“Environmental migration is a very real process and the number of people affected by environmental degradation in general — where climate change is an important factor — will certainly increase in the future”

Cosmin Corendea, UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security

The report emphasised that the worst-case scenario could be avoided if proper action is taken. Among its recommendations are significantly cutting GhG emissions, transforming development planning to take into account the entire cycle of migration, and investing in data collection and analysis to improve understanding of internal climate migration trends at the national level.
The report identified major “hotspots” of climate in- and out-migration areas from which people are expected to move, as well as urban, peri-urban, and rural areas to which people will try to move to build new lives and livelihoods. Migration will be induced by growing issues such as water scarcity, crop failure, sea-level rise, and storm surges
"The report pushes the frontiers of this understanding — using the best available global data sets — and building on the literature and contextual understanding of how migration is playing out in countries," Stephen Hammer, manager of the Climate Analytics and Advisory Services at World Bank, tells SciDev.Net.

"Environmental migration is a very real process and the number of people affected by environmental degradation in general — where climate change is an important factor — will certainly increase in the future," Cosmin Corendea, legal expert at the UN University's Institute for Environment and Human Security, tells SciDev.Net.   
Corendea recommends that UN member-states, through the Global Compact for Migration process, address environmental migration as a priority in ongoing negotiations and ensure that environmental degradation and climate change are addressed on a rights-based, bottom-up approach. He also emphasises regulating migration, preferably through a regional approach.  
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.