Could climate change force a billion people to move? | The Stream

Ever-more frequent extreme weather events have in recent years devastated rural regions in developing countries, with millions of people having to start from scratch after losing everything in storms, droughts and floods.

But scientists also warn that ‘slow onset’ changes to the climate are forcing growing numbers of people to migrate in order to earn a living and support their families.

Global temperatures could increase more in the next 50 years than in the previous 6,000, according to a study by scientists published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in May 2020.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration estimates that environmental factors may factor into the migration of between 25 million and 1 billion people by 2050.

While researchers say harsh climatic conditions are rarely a lone factor behind individuals’ decision to migrate in search of a stable livelihood, environmental challenges are exacerbating existing hardships, especially in rural regions. People across Central America, Africa’s Sahel region and South Asia are among those moving to urban centres in search of work. Many migrants who then face difficulties in cities feel they have little option but to cross international borders, as a last resort.

In the first episode of four episodes in support of climate journalism partnership Covering Climate Now, The Stream asks what is needed to humanely address the challenges of increased migration as global heating affects vulnerable communities.