The climate crisis is making environmental changes worse. Extreme weather like floods and droughts are forcing millions of people to flee their homes and countries. These people who are being displaced- often the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people- are called “climate refugees.”
Who are Climate Refugees?
Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their country and cannot return home safely. They are often escaping war or conflict. Climate refugees are forced to leave their homes because of dangerous environmental changes, like droughts or rising sea levels.
There are two types of climate refugees: those that are forced to leave their homes because of sudden changes (but often return), like hurricanes and floods, and those that leave because of environmental changes that happen at a slower pace, such as droughts and sea level rise.
Most climate refugees come from coastal areas in Asia and Africa, and Small Island States (which are sinking at the highest rate in the world)!
It is not always easy to say who is a climate refugee- some events, like the drought in Syria that has been happening since 2011, take much longer to force people to leave their homes and have different effects on the environment, making it difficult to tell why someone is leaving their home.
Refugees are protected by international laws, which stop them from being returned to their dangerous home countries, but climate refugees are not. They receive little to no support to rebuild their lives.
A study says that the climate crisis is creating at least 21.7 million climate refugees every year! 95% of this happens in developing countries.
By 2050, there could be up to 200 million people displaced by rising temperatures. Some estimates say that by 2060, there could be up to 1 billion people displaced! As global temperatures rise, farmlands are affected and there are more droughts and storms. Some communities clash over water. 300 million people will be vulnerable to flooding every year by 2050, which could reach 480 million people by 2100!
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Where Do These Climate Refugees Go?
Most climate refugees stay in their own countries, but they don’t get the help they need because they are not identified or registered, so they are forced to go to other countries.
Richer countries contribute the most to the climate crisis, but it is the poorer ones that suffer the most. These poorer people already live in areas that have flooding or droughts, and they often do not have the resources to cope with the climate crisis.
These rich countries should be helping the poorer ones to become stronger in facing the climate crisis, since the richest 10% are responsible for 50% of all carbon emissions! Scientists and campaigners say that these rich countries must make land available for climate refugees to live on and or they emit less greenhouse gases to slow down the rise in temperatures.