Climate Change to Impact More Than 200 million People by 2050: Report

Climate change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes in the next three decades and create migration hotspots unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions and bridge the development gap, a World Bank report has found.

Climate change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes in the next three decades and create migration hotspots, a World Bank report has found.

The report calls for urgent action to reduce global emissions and bridge the development gap.

The second part of the Groundswell report published on Monday examines how the impacts of slow-onset climate change such as water scarcity, decreasing crop productivity and rising sea levels could lead to millions of what the report describes as climate migrants by 2050 under three different scenarios with varying degrees of climate action and development.

The new Groundswell report builds on the work of the first, modelling three additional regions, namely East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia—to provide a global estimate of up to 216 million climate migrants by 2050 across all six regions.

For instance, by 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants; East Asia and the Pacific, 49 million; South Asia, 40 million; North Africa, 19 million; Latin America, 17 million; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 5 million.

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% 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.

“The Groundswell report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on the world’s poorest—those who are contributing the least to its causes. It also clearly lays out a path for countries to address some of the key factors that are causing climate-driven migration,” said Juergen Voegele, Vice President of Sustainable Development, World Bank.

“All these issues are fundamentally connected which is why our support to countries is positioned to deliver on climate and development objectives together while building a more sustainable, safe, and resilient future,” he added.

The first Groundswell report, published in 2018, used a robust and novel modelling approach to help understand the scale, trajectory, and spatial patterns of future climate migration within countries, with a focus on three regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. 

Specifically, it examined how slow-onset climate change impacts water availability and crop productivity, and sea-level rise augmented by storm surge could affect future internal migration, modelling three plausible scenarios.

Among the actions recommended include: Countries must come together and act decisively both to ensure that development is green, resilient, and inclusive, and to sharply reduce global emissions, consistent with the Paris Agreement. 

Two, action now at the intersection of climate, development, and migration is critical to safeguard the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals over the next 10 years and ensure shared prosperity to mid-century and beyond.