More than 42 million people world-wide were forced to flee due to a series of climate change-related natural disasters in 2010, more than double the number from 2009, and a new report says extreme weather events are set to continue.
Natural disasters have increased dramatically during the last two decades, doubling from around 200 to over 400 annually, the report shows. A major factor in relation to varying numbers from year to year are due to “mega-disasters” such as India’s massive flooding event in 2009 as well as China and Pakistan’s floods in 2010. Over major natural disasters forcing displacement were the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes.
“The scale of displacement is enormous. Every single number in this report is a person whose life is severely affected, and it is vital that those women, men and children who are being displaced by the impact of climate change and natural hazards receive the assistance and protection they need,” said NRC Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson, in a news release (pdf).
Although increased disasters occurred world-wide, the report notes Asia has been the hardest hit region. Pakistan’s flood in mid-2010 forced at least 11 million people to flee as raging waters destroyed their homes and livelihoods. During the same period, flooding in China covered a vast region of the country’s southern provinces as well as central and northern areas and displaced more than 15 million people.
“The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is increasing, and this trend is only set to continue. With all probability, the number of those affected and displaced will rise as human-induced climate change comes into full force,” Rasmusson added.
This year has seen Japan’s earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 10,000 people, has left more than 17,000 missing and has forced almost a half-million into a homeless situation.
In the US, record flooding of the Mississippi River forced tens of thousands to flee their homes as the river and its tributaries’ flood waters destroyed millions of acres of farm crops.
Added to the list of weather-related extremes is a rash of deadly tornadoes, including the Joplin, Missouri twister last month which killed at least 140 people and destroyed more than 8,000 structures.
The report, presented at an international conference in Oslo on climate change and displacement, calls on governments and the international community to effectively respond to, and protect, the displaced to help determine the future scale of the crisis.
“The humanitarian community will have to be better prepared to respond to large-scale natural disasters and the displacement that follows. The way that the international responses system is set up today, we cannot do so adequately,” Rasmussen said.