Best-Case Scenario in New Climate Report Has 44 Million Displaced by 2050

A best-case scenario has 44 million people displaced from their homes by 2050 because of climate change, a new World Bank report published Monday has found, the Associated Press reported.

The report examined three different scenarios for the effects of slow-onset climate change, such as water scarcity, decreased crop yield and rising sea levels, and also considered measures taken for climate action and development. The report says these scenarios could result in millions of what it calls “climate migrants” by 2050, the AP said.

A best-case scenario, with low-level emissions and inclusive, sustainable development, would still see 44 million people displaced from their homes. That is up to 80 percent lower than the estimates for the worst-case scenario.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Paris Climate Agreement Protestors
A best-case scenario on climate change says 44 million people could be displaced from their homes by 2050, according to a new report from the World Bank. Above, demonstrators in Chicago protest President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate change accord on June 2, 2017.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Under the most pessimistic scenario, with a high level of emissions and unequal development, the report forecasts up to 216 million people moving within their own countries across the six regions analyzed. Those regions are Latin America, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.

The report didn’t look at the short-term impacts of climate change, such as effects on extreme weather events

The findings “reaffirm the potency of climate to induce migration within countries,” said Viviane Wei Chen Clement, a senior climate change specialist at the World Bank and one of the report’s authors.

In the worst-case scenario, Sub-Saharan Africa—the most vulnerable region due to desertification, fragile coastlines and the population’s dependence on agriculture—would see the most movement, with up to 86 million climate migrants moving within national borders.

North Africa, however, is predicted to have the largest proportion of climate migrants, with 19 million people moving, equivalent to roughly 9 percent of its total population, due mainly to increased water scarcity in the northeastern coast of Tunisia, the northwestern coast of Algeria, western and southern Morocco, and the central Atlas foothills, the report said.

In South Asia, Bangladesh is particularly affected by flooding and crop failures accounting for almost half of the predicted climate migrants, with 19.9 million people, including an increasing share of women, moving by 2050 under the pessimistic scenario.

“This is our humanitarian reality right now and we are concerned this is going to be even worse, where vulnerability is more acute,” said professor Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, who wasn’t involved with the report.

The report did not look at climate migration across borders.

“Globally we know that three out of four people that move stay within countries,” said Dr. Kanta Kumari Rigaud, a lead environmental specialist at the World Bank and co-author of the report.

Still, migration patterns from rural to urban areas often precede movements across borders.

While climate change’s influence on migration is not new, it is often part of a combination of factors pushing people to move and acts as a threat multiplier. People affected by conflicts and inequality are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they have limited means to adapt.

The report also warns that migration hotspots could appear within the next decade and intensify by 2050. Planning is needed both in the areas where people will move to and in the areas they leave to help those who remain.

Among the actions recommended were achieving “net-zero emissions by mid-century to have a chance at limiting global warming to 1.5°C” and investing in development that is “green, resilient, and inclusive, in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Clement and Rigaud warned that the worst-case scenario is “plausible” if collective action to reduce emissions and invest in development isn’t taken, especially in the next decade.

Climate Change Report
A Samburu boy uses a wooden stick to try to swat a swarm of desert locusts filling the air as he herds his camel near the village of Sissia, Kenya, on January 16, 2020.
Patrick Ngugi, FIle/AP Photo

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