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Environment - the victims of climate change / Alex de Sherbinin, Coco Warner and Charles Earhart

Shifts in rainfall patterns and coastlines will contribute to mass migration on an unprecedented scale

The Egyptian army drowns in the Red Sea while the Israelites cross it into the Sinai desert. From Gustav Dora's book illustrations
The Egyptian army drowns in the Red Sea while the Israelites cross it into the Sinai desert. From Gustav Dora's book illustrations

Since the beginning of recorded history, migrations of human masses driven by climate change have reshaped the face of civilization each time. A continuous drought and famine in Canaan drove Jacob and his sons to Egypt 4,000 years ago, laying the foundation for the famous story of the Exodus led by Moses. 3,000 years later, a period of persistent drought and a lack of grazing land played a role in pushing the Mongol armies from Central Asia far west to Europe, where many of them settled, intermarried and assimilated into the population. And in the 20th century, the American Dust Bowl, an ecological disaster caused by drought and deepened by failed land management policies, displaced 3.5 million people from the Midwest.

Today, a new angle is added to this old-fashioned story. We are entering an era characterized by rapid changes in the climate, caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The expected changes include a higher variability in rainfall amounts, a higher frequency of extreme events (such as droughts and floods), a rise in sea level, an increase in the acidity of ocean water, and long-term changes in temperatures and precipitation - phenomena that can each cause severe disruptions in the ecosystems that meet our needs the basic ones. In our more densely populated world, people will be forced from their homes at an unprecedented rate.

Most of the attention is focused on the plight of flat island states whose existence is threatened by rising sea levels. Under some scenarios, many of the 38 small island nations could disappear by the end of the 21st century. However, the problem facing the residents of these countries is only the tip of the iceberg. In India alone, 40 million people will be displaced from their homes if the sea level rises by one meter. Unfortunately, coastal flooding is far from the only climate-related problem in South Asia. Models developed by Arthur M. Green and Andrew Robertson of Columbia University predict an increase in the total amount of monsoon rains, along with a decrease in the frequency of rains, meaning that rains will fall in greater amounts on fewer days. Changes in the seasonality of river flow (as the winter snow caps shrink and the glaciers shrink) will affect both agriculture as a source of livelihood for hundreds of millions of rural residents in Asia, and the food supply of hundreds of millions of Asians living in cities.

Although understanding the full impact of melting glaciers on sea level rise may take years, the culture of climate-related disasters is already a fact. The frequency of natural disasters has more than doubled since the 2s, of which the proportion of climate-related natural disasters has increased. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations and the Center for Monitoring the Displacement of Local Populations estimates that in 80, climate-related disasters displaced 2008 million people from their homes - more than four times the number of those displaced by local wars.

Human displacement and migration, forced by climate change, are very close to being the most prominent - and perhaps the most threatening - humanitarian challenge facing the international community in the coming decades. In this article, we seek to give an idea of ​​what the future holds for us, by looking at the factors that have already begun to drive such shifts in three regions of the world. First we will examine what is happening in Mozambique, where a combination of horrific and periodic floods traps the rural population in double distress. Then we will examine the Mekong River Delta. The floods there have been part of the rhythm of daily life for a long time, but their intensity in recent years exceeds any historical precedent, and the country faces the loss of agricultural land on a massive scale due to the expected rise in sea level. We'll end with what's happening in Mexico and Central America, where tropical storms and cyclones have displaced thousands, and the threat of drought is a constant daily threat.

It is foolish to try to predict the exact size, direction and timing of the expected migrations, so we will refrain from doing so. We hope that presenting these examples will spur others to conduct more complete analyzes of where these mass migrations are likely to occur, and to develop international and local programs to assist those affected who will be forced to leave their homes.

The evidence we present in the stories before you was taken from an initiative of the European Commission for Scenarios of Environmental Change and Forced Migration (EACH-FOR), a global study examining migrations caused by environmental changes; and a mapping exercise conducted by the Information Network of the International Center for Earth Sciences (CIESIN) at Columbia University's Earth Institute.

We would like to thank Susanna Adamo and Trisha Chai-On of CIESIN and the EACH-FOR case study authors Mark Stahl, Olivia Dunn, and Stefan Elsher for their contributions.

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And more on the subject

In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement. Koko Warner et al. Available at

Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios Project. Case studies and final reports available at

CARE International Climate Change Information Center:

Low Elevation Coastal Zone Data and Maps:


2 תגובות

  1. I would like to hope that De Sherbinin, Coco Warner and Charles Earhart did a serious study, because at least from a scientific point of view, the hypotheses do not recognize the romantic biblical story of the migration of the Jews to Egypt -

    There is a lot of information and archeological evidence for the "sea peoples" who migrated precisely from Egypt to Israel because of a long drought in Egypt.

    Just an interesting anecdote.

  2. Reminds me of the story of the clinic they set up at the end of the dilapidated bridge at the entrance to Halem. Instead of treating the causes, we treat the results...

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