Climate Refugees: Global Warming Could Displace 150 Million People by 2050

Read about these two studies that expose the frightening humanitarian effects of global warming and learn why we need political action now.

| November 18, 2009

  • Global warming displacement
    A house in St. Bernard Parish, La., one year after Hurricane Katrina. The destructive potential of Atlantic hurricanes hasincreased since 1970, correlated with an increase in sea surface temperature caused by global warming.

  • Global warming displacement

Recent reports are tallying the anticipated human cost of global warming, including the displacement of 150 million people throughout the world by 2050.

A new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) finds that climate change is already attributable for the deaths of more than 300,000 people per year, while seriously affecting another 325 million people each year. Most people on the planet are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and about 10 percent of the population is at extreme risk, according to the report. The report also finds that by 2050, as many as 150 million people could be forced from their homes due to climate change impacts.

The report calls for a new legal framework for such “climate refugees,” who are not recognized under the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees.

While the EJF report highlights severe impacts on mostly developing countries — including Bangladesh, island nations and most of the African continent — a new report from Oxfam America finds significant vulnerabilities right here in the United States, particularly in the Southeast.

The report looks at places where climate-change hazards overlap with social vulnerabilities, including poverty, old age, and areas with high percentages of populations with special needs. It found about 60 counties with both high social vulnerabilities and exposure to multiple hazards due to climate change. Most of those counties are located in the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

11/25/2009 5:17:02 PM

The emails that reveal an effort to hide the truth about climate science. "scientists appear to urge each other to present a "unified" view on the theory of man-made climate change while discussing the importance of the "common cause"; to advise each other on how to smooth over data so as not to compromise the favored hypothesis; to discuss ways to keep opposing views out of leading journals; and to give tips on how to "hide the decline" of temperature in certain inconvenient data." "we do now have hundreds of emails that give every appearance of testifying to concerted and coordinated efforts by leading climatologists to fit the data to their conclusions while attempting to silence and discredit their critics. In the department of inconvenient truths, this one surely deserves a closer look by the media, the U.S. Congress and other investigative bodies"

11/24/2009 2:12:53 PM

I would imagine that the Earth warms and cools periodically on its own. I do believe that it is possible that humans may have contributed to it this time around, but there is not enough proof to say for sure. I do remember that in the 70's, when I was a kid, everyone was screaming about global cooling. (That "screaming" wasn't nearly as loud.) However, with or without proof, do we really want to take chances by dumping more chemicals into our environment? Just where do these chemicals go? How do they break down in the soil and ground water and atmosphere? If they do prove to be causing or contributing to global warming, is there a reasonable way to recover this junk from the environment? These are things that we should be considering. As far as the mention of Louisana after Hurricane Katrina, how can you expect to NOT get flooded during a hurricane if you live in an area that is below sea level? By building levees to "reclaim" land that was originally under water, then putting housing on it, they should not be the least bit surprised when they get flooded in a hurricane. This is very much a proven situation in which humans have tried to beat (or fool) Mother Nature, and been told (repeatedly) that it's not nice. Move to higher ground, folks. And don't act so shocked and surprised when the water comes in.

George Works
11/24/2009 7:34:11 AM

I'm a retired engineer and a AAAS member, and I follow the climate science fairly closely. In my view: Global warming is no hoax. The great majority of climate scientists all over the world agree that the earth is warming due to human activity, and that this warming is probably not good for us humans. As in all science, there is a lively discussion about the details. There is no easy solution. Humans use a staggering amount of energy every day derived from fossil fuels. A sudden big drop in energy use would mean a drop in food production, world GDP, etc., and these are not things people can tolerate. Neither can we replace all our current energy infrastructure with "clean" infrastructure in less than several decades. And building new infrastructure also releases CO2. This is a long-term problem. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a "half-life" of about 200 years. Even if CO2 emissions stopped today, the world would still be warming a century from now. I think we should do all we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while moving away from fossil fuels as quickly as is practical. Each of us should reduce our energy use and consume less "stuff". Keeping family sizes down helps too. But we will still have to deal with the consequences of the CO2 already in the air, and that which we can't avoid emitting in the future.


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