Climate Change Could Force 143 Million Across Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America to Migrate

These numbers can be reduced by tens of millions if appropriate actions were taken at the national and international levels, the World Bank says.

Climate change will force tens of millions of people to migrate within countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America by 2050 if national and international actions aren't taken, according to a new World Bank study.

Migration from climate change impact in sub-Saharan Africa

Overall, some 143 million people living in these regions – around 2.8 percent of the collective total population – could be forced to move due to the effects of “the slow-onset impacts of climate change” if effective climate and development action is not taken, the study authors highlight.

Degradation and loss of freshwater sources and crop productivity will be the primary agents that fuel forced climate migration in countries across the three regions. That would put tremendous strains and pressure on essential, public infrastructure and services, as well as marginal populations living in mega-cities and outlying suburban areas, many of which are already overwhelmed by the influx of migrants from rural areas, according to “Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration.”

Rising internal climate migration

“Internal climate migrants are rapidly becoming the human face of climate change,” the report states. Without concerted action at national and international levels, the World Bank estimates that by 2050:

  • as many as 86 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa could be forced to move to other areas within their countries due to deterioration of landscapes, water, and other fundamental natural resources.
  • 40 million internal climate migrants could be on the move in South Asia
  • Latin America's population of internal climate migrants could reach 17 million.

“Every day, climate change becomes a more urgent economic, social, and existential threat to countries and their people. We see this in cities facing unprecedented water crises, in coastal areas experiencing destructive storm surges, and in once vibrant agricultural areas no longer able to sustain essential food crops.

“And, increasingly, we are seeing climate change become an engine of migration, forcing individuals, families and even whole communities to seek more viable and less vulnerable places to live,” World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva writes in the report's foreword.

Projected number of climate migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin American

The need for global action

Global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable development planning could reduce the numbers of climate migrants across these regions by tens of millions, the report authors write. “There is an opportunity now to plan and act for emerging climate change threats,” they say.

The World Bank has been scaling up its own efforts in this regard, although it continues to be criticized for continuing to fund mega infrastructure and fossil fuel resources development projects that undermine them.

Georgieva points to the World Bank's increasing investments in solar, wind and other emissions-free, renewable energy resources development along with other, similarly minded initiatives, such as developing climate insurance mechanisms to protect the most vulnerable nations from economic disaster.

She also points out the World Bank's efforts to promote international dialogue and help build the human and technological capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change within and between the most climate-vulnerable nations.

The entire report is available for download.

*Images credit: World Bank

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