Climate-induced displacement: what to learn from the IPCC Report on 1.5°C?

20 June 2019

ECO is still wondering about the real motives of those who would not want to give adequate attention to the 1.5°C Special Report of the IPCC. Pushing others to actively ignore the alarm bells for the planet and its people is what climate change denialists do. The suffering of men and women, boys and girls that we can hear about on World Refugee Day should be a stark reminder that we cannot ignore the potentially disastrous future billions of people and species on this planet will face. So don’t let ignorance win over humanity’s wisdom!

Climate change is directly driving displacement. Directly through extreme weather events that are destroying homes and flooding communities, as well as indirectly by exacerbating other drivers, such as increasing water stress or food insecurity that forces people to leave their homes to seek other livelihoods. But it is also true that “multiple drivers and embedded social processes influence the magnitude and pattern of livelihoods and poverty, and the changing structure of communities related to migration, displacement, and conflict”, as the IPCC report states.

The IPCC special report did not produce figures in terms of the number of people affected by displacement, partially because no specific studies were identified which looked at the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C in terms of the expected number of climate migrants. Last year, a World Bank report concluded that, under a scenario of 3°C increase or more in global average temperature, the number of internally displaced people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America by 2050 could be up to 3 times the number (140 million people) compared to a 1.5°C compatible scenario.

In many regions which are already subject to extreme displacement, such as the Sahel and the Mediterranean, the climate crisis is already making things worse.

The report finds that the impacts of 1.5°C would “disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable populations through food insecurity, higher food prices, income losses, lost livelihood opportunities, adverse health impacts, and population displacements.” .

For example, at 2°C warming, there is a potential for significant population displacement concentrated in the tropics. Tropical populations may have to move at distances greater than 1000€¯km if global mean temperature rises by 2€¯°C from the period of 2011€“2030 to the end of the century. A disproportionately rapid evacuation from the tropics could lead to concentration of population in tropical margins and the subtropics, where population densities could increase by 300% or more.

Sea-level rise is another concern. Countries with a population of at least 50 million people would be exposed to sea-level rise, at approximately 1.5°C temperature rise above today’s level, include China, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, United States and Vietnam.

ECO knows there are many smart people in these venues which have read the 1.5°C report in more detail and have also understood that massively scaled-up action is needed on mitigation, adaptation, and addressing loss and damage. So, negotiators, be “climate-smart” and focus on action and support. Millions of people who would otherwise have to leave their homes will thank you.

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