Climate Change Displaces More Refugees Than War

Millions of People Worldwide Displaced by the Effects of Global Warming

Flooding in the Philippines. Getty Images

The number of refugees worldwide grew from 9.9 million in 2007 to 11.4 million in 2008, according to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which identified climate change as one of the leading causes of the global rise in refugees, along with conflict and escalating food prices.

Climate Change Displaces More People Than War

According to the International Red Cross, climate change disasters are now a bigger cause of population displacement than war and persecution.

The global impact of the environment on human livelihoods is creating a new kind of casualty: environmental refugees. Rising sea levels, increasing desertification, weather-induced flooding, and more frequent natural disasters have become a major cause of population displacement in several parts of the world—a trend that is very likely to continue.

Scientists Say 1.6 Billion Have Been Displaced Since 2000

According to a report published by the United Nations University, there are now about 19.2 million people officially recognized as "persons of concern," people who are likely to be displaced because of environmental disasters. This figure is predicted to grow to about 50 million by the end of the year 2010.

The UN points out that these forecasts are not inevitable. If the international community joins forces to create and carry out an effective strategy to curb global warming and manage Earth’s natural resources more efficiently, there still may be time to reverse population displacements and stem the rising tide of refugees.

A 2014 fact sheet from The Nansen Initiative, a climate change coalition led by the Swiss and Norwegian governments that tracks the movement of environmental refugees, reported that approximately 144 million people were displaced between 2008 and 2012 after sudden earthquakes, cyclones and floods. The report also calculated that 1.6 billion people have been affected by natural disasters since 2000.