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Climate change - one billion people homeless by 2050 14.05.07

Human Tide Report
Christian Aid Week

Human Tide: the real migration crisis, a new report for Christian Aid Week estimates that the number of people forced out of their home by climate change related events, flooding, scarce water, conflict over scarce resources, could reach one billion by 2050.

‘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.’ IPCC-Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Draft of chapter 19.

At the moment there are around 163 million displaced people, forced to leave their homes by a combination of war, ethnic persecution, natural disasters and large scale development projects.

This human tragedy will only get worse as the full impact of climate change hits home in the developing world according to findings of the IPCC quoted in Human Tide, the report estimates that by 2050: • 50 million people displaced by conflict and extreme human rights abuses. This assumes a rate of displacement of roughly 1 million people a year, which is conservative. • 50 million people displaced by natural disasters. Again, this conservatively assumes that around 1 million people will be displaced in this way every year. • 645 million people displaced by development projects such as dams and mines (at the current rate of 15 million a year). • 250 million people permanently displaced by climate change-related phenomena such as floods, droughts, famines and hurricanes. • 5 million people will flee their own countries and be accepted as refugees.

The impact of climate change causing water shortages, flooding and famine is of growing concern to politicians and military personnel alike.

‘Climate change and growing competition for scarce resources are together likely to increase the incidence of humanitarian crises. The spread of desert regions, a scarcity of water, coastal erosion, declining arable land, damage to infrastructure from extreme weather: all this could undermine security,’ Sir Jock Stirrup, as the Chief of the Defence Staff and Britain’s most senior seviceman, lecture at the Royal United Services Institute

Margaret Beckett recently said that the heart of the Dafur tragedy is the "struggle between nomadic and pastoral communities for resources made more scarce through a changing climate".

She went onto say, "Resource-based conflicts are not new. But in climate change we have a new and potentially disastrous dynamic."

In Human Tide: the real migration crisis, the authors acknowledge that the science on the impact of climate change on developing countries is still unclear, but argues that the fact we don’t know the exact impact is no basis for inaction. Based on the Stern Review and the latest IPCC report it can already shown that an increase in 2 decrees will have a major impact of rainfall and sea levels these in turn will hit sub Saharan Africa and Asia particularly, flooding coastal land, reducing the available agricultural land and the reduced rainfall will render large areas of agricultural land unworkable.

The World Bank estimates that climate-proofing in the developing world will cost between US$10 to US$40 billion (£5.09 to £20.36 billion) a year – considerably less than the defence budget of the UK alone.

There are now three funds dedicated to helping poor countries adapt to climate change: the Adaptation Fund, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). So far, a total of £91.5 million has been pledged to two of the funds (the third is in flux due to political wrangling) but only half of it has been delivered by rich countries. The UK has pledged £10 million to each of the two operational funds. But so far it has only delivered £3.5 million to the LDCF and £6.6 million to the SCCF.

Christian Aid is also calling for the most polluting nations to form a fighting fund of £100 million a year to help the poorest and most at risk countries to adapt to climate change.

Christian Aid Week runs from 13th May to 19th May.

Peter Shield

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The Human Tide:the real migration crisis Read the full report (PDF)

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