Climate migration continues to grow and reshape the world
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 4:29 - Get used to hearing the terms "Climate Migrant" or "Environmental Migrant" as each have become increasingly common across news headlines. We constantly hear or read about entire populations having to move from the places they inhabited all their lives to other locations mainly due to climate change. This "Climate Migration" phenomenon is having a tremendous social and political impact in many countries around the world, and unfortunately more is on the way.
Climate doesn't change equally around the planet, some places get hotter, others drier and some experience stronger storms or higher tides. However, there is an evident signal linking changing climate and human migration.
Video Below: Climate Index Animation (NASA)
Using NASA's Common Sense Climate Index developed by James Hansen and other scientists in 1998, estimates have been constructed to study any ongoing climate change in a given region. The index is a composite of several everyday climate indicators and includes seasonal mean temperatures, degree days, frequency of extreme temperatures or record daily temperatures. If the index reaches and consistently maintains a value of 1 or more, then climate change should be noticeable to most people who have lived in that given location for a few decades.
The animation above shows the Climate Index averaged over the last five years of analyzed temperature data (2012-2016) over a 0.5 x 0.5 degree grid of station-only data with a 1200 km (746 mile) smoothing radius. Below is an animated time series map which shows how during the last 30 years, the climate change signal has been increasing steadily in many countries around the world.
Video Below: Climate Index Series Animation (NASA)
According to United Nations data, the number of what they refer to as "persons of concern" due to changing climate scenarios, has alarmingly tripled since 2005 to 64 million. The map bellow shows how there is a high correlation between those areas where human migration is taking place and climate change mainly due to global warming.
Below: U.N. climate change and human migration map
Climate Change can affect entire human settlements in different ways. By a direct impact when natural disasters such as flooding, intense storms, drought or desertification occur. But severe environmental changes can also lead to crop failure, famine, urban overpopulation, political conflict, wars and eventually and increase in human migration. It´s a snowball effect where the ball can end being much larger than initially expected.
There is no clear current definition of what and "Environmental or Climate Migrant" is, so there is no precise way to know exactly how many people around the world had to abandon their living places due to one or more factors caused by climate change.
Below: Environmental Refugees - Sudan - EJF’s No Place like Home campaign works to secure recognition and protection for climate refugees - people forced from their homes and land as result of the negative impacts of climate change.
Back in 2010, during a Gallup World Poll, 12 per cent of those asked, about 500 million adults, answered that extreme changes in the environment where they lived would force them to move in a five year period.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic ongoing examples of human migration due to climate change is and has been occurring in Syria. The year 2007 marked the beginning of one of the most intense droughts ever registered in the country. As water supplies dwindled, crops began to fail and a large number of livestock was lost forcing a million and a half to migrate from rural to urban areas.
Food prices skyrocketed leading to social and political tension, which would eventually leave Syrians in a very vulnerable situation triggering the current ongoing conflicts.
Below: 17 Nov 2010, Ar Raqqah, Syria --- Sheikh Ghazi Rashad Hrimis touches dried earth in the parched region of Raqqa province in eastern Syria, November 11, 2010. Lack of rain and mismanagement of the land and water resources have forced up to half of million people to flee the region in one of Syria's largest internal migrations since France and Britain carved the country out of the former Ottoman Empire in 1920. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri (Image by © KHALED AL-HARIRI/Reuters/Corbis)