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article imageOp-Ed: New study says climate will cause massive population displacement

By Paul Wallis     Jan 8, 2015 in Environment
Sydney - A Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) survey has found that more people are displaced by natural events and climate-related phenomena than all the wars on Earth combined. The NRC operates the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva.
Those figures aren’t good. In 2013, 22 million people were displaced by natural events. This is more or less double the number for equivalent events in the 1970s. An ever-growing global population means that more people are affected by these events.
The problems
The UN wants governments to begin planning for migration. That’s not likely to be easy. The current movement of large numbers of economic refugees is straining the ability of nations to receive immigrants and causing some social stresses. The combination of wars, religious and cultural issues, economic shortages, unemployment, and other issues makes managing migration difficult at best.
The natural forces, however, are unequivocal. These problems aren’t going to go away. Policies will have to deal with realities, and most population policies aren’t good at managing reality of any kind.
People will have to move, whether they have anywhere to move to, or not. Parts of the Middle East are running out of water. Some densely populated areas, like Bangladesh and other low lying areas are suffering from severe regular flooding. Desertification in Africa remains a serious issue, reducing the amount of arable and inhabitable land.
Population growth is naturally exacerbating the issues. The logistics of supporting large populations become exponentially more difficult as populations increase.
The recorded sea level rise since 1900 has been 19 cm. The expected rise for the rest of the 21st century is 26 to 82 cm. (Not a very impressive estimate, bearing in mind that’s more than 4 times the recorded sea level rise in the last 100+ years.) Both estimated rises would affect highly populated coastal areas around major cities, particularly in Asia.
This isn’t a new argument. Scientific American published a study in 2009 of the likely effects of sea level rise, which for some very poor nations could be catastrophic.
The West won’t get off lightly, either. In Europe, the retreat of the glaciers could dry up major rivers, even the Rhine. A water crisis based on the recorded reduction of the glaciers is threatening, in the foreseeable future. In the US, a gigantic drought has been eating away at the western US states for many years and some of the southeast.
Move where? Can existing resources support displaced people?
The other obvious issue is the ability of existing civic infrastructures to take increasing populations. Many commentators would say they can’t handle their existing loads, let alone larger numbers of people, particularly at short notice. Traffic, sewers, water supply, food, sanitation, health care, you name it; the demand is greater than the ability to supply.
Talk is cheap. Preparing for a gigantic piece of string with no parameters is no easier than measuring it. One example of the instant local problems caused by sea level-caused displacement is already happening in the Solomons. Flooding is also a major issue in Bangladesh, which is in the unenviable position of being both a low-lying area and subject to monsoonal and tidal flooding.
The nightmare of Bangladesh, as described by The, includes the grim statistic that 6.5 million people have already been displaced by local climate events. The change of climate has forced displacement. Approximately 90% of these people were estimated to have no livelihoods, in 2011. The situation has if anything worsened since, with major flooding in subsequent years.
Displaced by displacement? Snowballing issues
There’s another problem – displacements tend to continue displacing. Population pressure displaces people just as effectively as climate. The total lack of preparedness of affected regions to manage the realities has made their problems much worse. The Norwegian Refugee Council has made an excellent point, but even developing the planning skills to solve the problems is going to take time.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Climate change, climate related population displacement, bangaldesh, Solomon islands, Sea level rise