The Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration

climate change on human migration

Climate change is estimated to have a profound effect on human migration. Harsh conditions and disaster displacement will force millions of people to leave the lands they call home this century. 

As climate change continues to worsen, the risk of displacement and migration for vulnerable communities increases. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and food insecurity can force people to flee their homes, worsening existing social and economic inequalities. 

We must act quickly to address these catastrophic events. Reducing global warming by forgoing fossil fuels and investing in alternative sources of energy, like solar panels, is an important option. 

How Does Climate Change Affect Human Migration and Displacement?

Climate change and natural disasters will wreak havoc worldwide during the 21st century. Global warming will cause extreme weather events, drought, famine, and food shortages. These catastrophes will increase in frequency and severity, forcing people to leave their homes for safer regions.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states that between 2008 and 2016, an average of 21.5 million people a year were forced to move due to weather-related hazards. Many of these events are linked to climate change.

These events are happening across the world and in the US. We must prepare for the massive displacement of people and address global warming simultaneously to reduce human suffering on a mass scale.

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Which Areas Will Be Most Affected by Human Migration?

Urban and coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Due to their built-up nature, they will likely be the most significant source of displacement.

On a geographic level, climate change will affect some regions harder than others. In particular, the developing world will bear the brunt of global warming. 

A World Bank Groundswell report suggests six regions will face vast levels of migration by 2050. These areas are:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • North Africa
  • South Asia
  • East Asia
  • The Pacific
  • Latin America

The paper states that over 200 million people will be displaced from their homes over the next 30 years. Most of this migration will be internal, with hotspots flaring up by 2030 and quickly accelerating.

One pressing issue to consider is that many of these areas don't have the infrastructure or resources to support this level of internal migration. Inadequate government responses could lead to accelerating human crises within these areas.

Why Climate Change Affects Migration

Climate change is a potent driver of migration for three big reasons. One or all three factors can converge to make a particular reason hostile to human life.

1. Extreme weather makes specific regions dangerous

Extreme weather events and natural disasters can hit cities with little warning. These events destroy homes, infrastructure, and support services. Citizens are often forced to leave while reconstruction occurs. 

This list of the ten costliest climate disasters of 2022 demonstrates the size of the problem.

2. Food shortages 

Food shortages brought about by drought and famine caused by global warming disrupt rural ways of life. Without food, people are forced to migrate internally. The Civil War in South Sudan is one example of this phenomenon.

3. Job loss

Climate change also affects economic activity. If sectors like trade, tourism, fishing, etc., are destroyed, people will move to secure a livelihood elsewhere. Reports suggest over 80 million jobs could be lost to climate change by 2030.

Sudan: the Canary in a Coal Mine

We don't need to imagine the consequences of the climate change war. Famine in South Sudan led to a conflict that displaced millions of people. Although the causes were complex, global warming certainly played a role.

As the Sahara desert advanced, rainfall decreased by 15% to 30%. This drought led to a food shortage that forced nomadic pastoralists into the cities. 

Often referred to as the "first climate change conflict," the war is a deadly reminder of how global warming can destabilize a region and increase the likelihood of war. Net migration from Sudan remains high even today. 

Widespread climate change could trigger similar global events.

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The Consequences of Climate Change

The impacts of climate change can be divided into two broad segments: climate processes and climate events.

Climate processes refer to the following:

  • Increased water scarcity
  • Rising sea-levels
  • Salinization of soil

Climate events refer to the following:

  • Floods
  • Storms
  • Cyclones

Climate processes will happen slowly and over the long term, with climate events hitting suddenly. Both situations will affect migration and force largely internal movement within countries and regions.

How Can We Help Reduce These Conditions?

The World Bank Groundswell report cited earlier suggests the world can reduce as much as 80% of migration if we take action on climate change.

One step you can take is reducing your reliance on fossil fuels. Global temperatures rise yearly because of carbon released from energy sources like coal, oil, and gas. Solar panels offer a renewable replacement for this energy. 

In order to encourage citizens to transition to greener energy sources, the US government has set up solar panel tax credits as an incentive. This serves to make choosing clean energy less taxing on your pockets.

For example, the popularity of solar panel installation is on the rise in the Greater Los Angeles area and across California because the cost of solar energy has been going down and the state requires that 60% of its electricity come from green sources.

By choosing the best solar companies, you get an assurance of a proper installation and guidance on claiming your incentives. You'll also enjoy peace of mind, knowing that your investment will pay off in the long run, both financially and environmentally.

Final Thoughts

Climate change will displace millions of people over the next few decades. While the situation is not redeemable, we need to act now to reduce the effects of climate change on human migration.

Reducing global warming involves cutting back on fossil fuels. Solar panels are an excellent way to replace these energy sources with a sustainable alternative. With incentives like the federal solar tax credit, it practically pays for itself after a few years. 

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