Climate change and migration
– what do we know?
But nobody knows how exactly how much of an increase climate change will have on migration flows.
Estimates are hard to make
This means a lot of the current climate related migration is movement from rural to urban areas. Or if local economies are doing badly in cities as well, seasonal workers cross borders to work elsewhere for short periods at a time.
Zataari refugee camp in Jordan hosts approximately 80 000 Syrian refugees.
There are always many reasons to move
An important point here is that local job prospects or factors such as social security systems play a big part in what people do.
“It’s a very complicated picture, but climate change is a huge part of it, and will be an even bigger part in the future.”
Internal migration is most common
So, people already move because of climate change and will probably do more so in the future. But news of migration and refugee movements can give us the wrong impression of the phenomena by focusing on very specific kinds of migrants, usually international refugees.
However, presently, people mainly move within their home countries. The figure mentioned earlier – 258 million migrants or 3.3 percent of the world population – does not take into account people who move within borders.
The most recent estimates suggest that there are now over 760 million internal migrants globally.
And when it comes to displacement, meaning moving against ones will, war is also not the main reason people are forced to leave their homes. Disasters are.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a striking 26.4 million people have been displaced every year between 2008 and 2014. This is one person per second.
During the aforementioned years, the amount of people displaced by disasters was almost double the amount of those that had to flee their homes because of armed conflict.
When it comes to climate change related displacement, Alex Randall makes a distinction between two types of reasons for it: sudden onset and slow onset disasters.
Sudden natural hazards force people to leave their homes quickly, within hours or days or weeks. Slow onset changes, like drought, affect people’s lives more slowly and allows more time for considering options.
“Both are linked to climate change, but in both cases, people tend to move short distances, within countries”, Randall emphasises.
According to the UN Refugee Agency there are about 660 000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Will climate change mean more refugees?
And finally, if there are possibilities to leave a destroyed country when other possibilities are exhausted, life might go on.
As Anitta Kynsilehto puts it: attempts to address these complex issues require, first and foremost, political will to enhance global social justice.