March 22, 2018

143 million people predicted to become migrants as a result of climate change

143 million people predicted to become migrants as a result of climate change

Climate change will force 143 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050, research by the World Bank finds.

The new report states that without substantial action, 2.8% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—regions which together make up 55% of the world’s developing population—will be forced to move to areas less vulnerable to environmental risks.

“Internal climate migration is a development issue. Unless we act it will become the human face of climate change,” said Kristina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. Indeed, droughts, crop failure, rising sea levels, and water scarcity could see the number of migrants reach 86 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 million in South Asia, and 17 million in Latin America.

The report describes three case studies from Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Mexico. Bangladesh is likely to suffer from sea-level rise and storms which will result in increased migration to cities, primarily to the capital, Dhaka. “Floods come every year, but this year the situation is worse. Now all my family is living in one relative’s house. I don’t want to go back to my village, mainly because of the flood. In Dhaka, I can work and have a good secure life,” commented Monoara Khatun, a Bangladeshi participant in the research. Linguère Mously Mbaye, in her IZA World of Labor article, Climate change, natural disasters and migration, correspondingly finds that in the case of Bangladesh, moderate flooding “increased an individual’s likelihood to move locally,” between 1994 and 2010.

If supported by concrete development policies and solid investment, migration can be a sensible climate change adaption strategy, according to the report. Indeed, Mbaye writes that migration should be considered as an adaption strategy because, “it can provide new opportunities and resources to affected people.”

The World Bank primarily advises countries to introduce actions that will cut global emissions and reduce the impact of climate change, such as investment in emissions-reducing solar and wind power projects. Georgieva comments that, “the number of climate migrants could be reduced by tens of millions as a result of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and with far-sighted development planning.”

Mbaye recommends, however, that policymakers not only focus on actions that directly tackle the sources of climate change, but in cases of drought, for example, also consider possible survival strategies such as “changing consumption patterns by reducing the number of daily meals, selling household assets, using food reserves, and benefiting from solidarity through gifts, loans, and aid.” If no robust action is taken soon, it is likely that internal climate migration will not only rise, but accelerate.

Read more articles on migration and the labor market.

For specific expertise on climate change and migration get in touch directly with Linguère Mously Mbaye.