A world of refugees

il be tillilGlobal warming will force up to 150 million “climate refugees” to move to other countries in the next 40 years, a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) waClimate change The Environmental Justice Foundation, has in a new report claimed that 500 million to 600 million people, nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population, are at risk from displacement by climate change, writes John Vidalrns. In 2008 alone, more than 20 million people were displaced by climate-related natural disasters, including 800,000 people by cyclone Nargis in Asia, and almost 80,000 by heavy floods and rains in Brazil, the NGO said. President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, who presented testimony to the EJF, said people in his country did not want to “trade a paradise for a climate refugee camp”.

‘Keep it under 2C’
Nasheed urged governments to find ways to keep temperature rises caused by warming under 2C. “We are just 1.5m over sea level and anything over that, any rise in sea level – anything even near that – would wipe off the Maldives. People are having to move their homes because of erosion. We’ve already had problems with two islands and we are having to move them to other islands. We have a right to live.”

 The EJF claimed that 500 million to 600 million people, nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population, are at risk from displacement by climate change. Around 26 million have already had to move, a figure that the EJF predicts could grow to 150 million by 2050. “The majority of these people are likely to be internally displaced, migrating only within a short radius from their homes. Relatively few will migrate internationally to permanently resettle in other countries,” said the report’s authors.
Climate change The Environmental Justice Foundation, has in a new report claimed that 500 million to 600 million people, nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population, are at risk from displacement by climate change, writes John Vidal
In the longer term, the report said, changes to weather patterns will lead to various problems, including desertification and sea-level rises that threaten to inundate low-lying areas and small island developing states. An expert at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris recently said global warming could create “ghost states” with citizens living in “virtual states” due to land lost to rising seas.

Sea-level rise in 18-59 cm range
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts sea-level rise in the range of 18-59 cm during the 21st century. Nearly one-third of coastal countries have more than 10 per cent of their national land within five metres of sea level.
Countries liable to lose all or a significant part of their land in the next 50 years, said the EJF report, include Tuvalu, Fiji, the Solomon islands, the Marshall islands, the Maldives and some of the Lesser Antilles.

Many other countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Chad and Rwanda, could see large movements of people. Bangladesh has had 70 climate-related natural disasters in the past 10 years.
“Climate change impacts on homes and infrastructure, food and water and human health. It will bring about a forced migration on an unprecedented scale,” said the EJF director, Steve Trent.

“We must take immediate steps to reduce our impact on global climate, and we must also recognise the need to protect those already suffering along with those most at risk.” He called for a new international agreement to address the scale and human cost of climate change. “The formal legal definition of refugees needs to be extended to include those affected by climate change and also internally displaced persons,” he said.

Africa could be devastated
Meanwhile, one of the world’s most influential scientists has warned that climate change could devastate Africa, predicting an increase in catastrophic food shortages. Professor Sir Gordon Conway, the outgoing chief scientist at the UK’s Department for International Development, and former head of the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, argued in a new scientific paper that the continent is already warming faster than the global average and that people living there can expect more intense droughts, floods and storm surges.
There will be less drinking water, diseases such as malaria will spread and the poorest will be hit the hardest as farmland is damaged in the coming century, he wrote.
“There is already evidence that Africa is warming faster than the global average, with more warm spells and fewer extremely cold days. Northern and southern Africa are likely to become as much as 4C hotter over the next 100 years, and (will become) much drier,” he said.

Conway predicts hunger on the continent could increase in the short term as droughts and desertification increase, and climate change affects water supplies.
“Projected reductions in crop yields could be as much as 50 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2100,” the paper says.

Conway held out some hope that east Africa and the Horn of Africa, presently experiencing its worst drought and food shortages in 20 years, will become wetter. But he said that the widely hoped-for 8-15 per cent increase in African crop yields as a direct result of more CO2 in the atmosphere may fail to materialise.
“The latest analyses of more realistic field trials suggest the benefits of carbon dioxide may be significantly less than initially thought,” he said.

Instead, population growth combined with climate change would mean countries face extreme problems growing more food: “We are going to need an awful lot more crop production, 70-100 per cent more food will be needed than we have at present. Part of (what is needed) is getting more organic matter into Africa’s soils, which are very depleted, but we also have to improve water availability and produce crops that yield more, and use nitrogen and water more efficiently.”

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