Climate change An age of migration

In October 2006, the Stern Review delivered a grim forecast for people around the world - climate change threatens our access to water, food production, health and use of land. And by the summer of 2007 it looked as though climate change was already hitting home: against the backdrop of raging heat in Greece and extensive flooding in the UK, newspapers declared that 'the world is warming before our eyes' (McCarthy, 2007).

The impact of climate change therefore was no longer an 'if' but a 'when and how'. The distant threat could come knocking on our doors in as little 50 years as Stern estimated that '200 million more people may become permanently displaced due to rising sea levels, heavier floods and more intense droughts' (Stern, 2006). More recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II report had a similarly bleak outlook: 'stresses such as increased drought, water shortages and riverine and coastal flooding will affect many local and regional populations. This will lead in some cases to relocation within or between countries, exacerbating conflicts and imposing migration pressures' (Schneider et al, 2007).

A number of charities and think tanks have followed suit, claiming that 1 billion people could be forced to leave their homes over the next 50 years as the effects of climate change exacerbate an already serious 'migration crisis' (Christian Aid, 2007). 'Natural disasters, together with the effects of resource stripping, have displaced millions' (Conisbee and Simms, 2003). Although there are no conclusive global figures on the number of people who are at risk of displacement, Professor Norman Myers suggests that in 1995 there were at least 25 million people displaced for environmental reasons over and above the 27 million 'traditional refugees', and 'when global warming takes hold, there could be as many as 200 million people' (Myers, 2005).

These gloomy predictions of extreme weather patterns that exert pressure on already vulnerable populations to seek refuge elsewhere have prompted alarm in the press and public alike.1 A headline in The Times captured the point succinctly: 'Climate change could create 200 million refugees' (Leake, 2007). It seems that it is not fear of climate change alone - rather, the possibility that this will bring an unprecedented and overwhelming number of migrants to our gates and with them the likelihood of violence and conflict over scarce resources. Indeed, Margaret Beckett issued a stark warning to the United Nations Security Council in 2007 that 'an unstable climate risks some of the drivers of conflict - such as migratory pressures and competition for resources - getting worse' (cited in Eccleston, 2007).

0 0

Post a comment