Growing up in Chennai all my life, I have witnessed several cyclones, heavy rains, a tsunami, an earthquake, and a couple of floods (2015 being the worst), and I have heard of more such disasters across India. I have internalised an anxiety which forces me to anticipate a disastrous flashfood every November. I always have this nagging scare about what if I am forced out of my home one day and subjected to sudden poverty.
What if the home I invest in for my retirement becomes unliveable because of climate change-induced disasters? What of my hard-earned money and savings? I realised these are very first-world worries (not because I will invest in a safe space that may never have a threat but because unimaginable worse is happening around me).
Climate-induced disasters are displacing COMMUNITIES right now, and the damage done to a place once people called home is irreversible (or at least considering how our world governments are progressing with repair and repatriation, we can assume it is irreversible for now).
Climate migration is when people are forced to leave their homes due to the effects of climate change. It’s happening because of issues like extreme weather events, droughts, and sea-level rise – all consequences of our changing climate.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that over the next three decades, around 143 million people will have to leave their homes because of climate change.
Take, for instance, the heartbreaking story of Pakistani migrants who lost their lives at sea while trying to escape the impact of severe flooding in their country. These are real people facing dire situations and making tough choices to secure a better future. The recent earthquake in Morocco and the flooding in Libya are driving many people to cross borders.
India is another example. It experiences a significant number of displacements each year due to various calamities. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre IDMC) reports that 14 million people in India have been forced to leave their homes for climate-related reasons.
Many of these climate migrants are heading to cities for jobs and shelter. In 2022 alone, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced, and experts predict that by 2050, a staggering 1.2 billion more may be on the move because of climate disasters.
Now, consider the challenges that this massive migration presents. Many places becoming destinations for climate migrants lack the infrastructure, policies, and resources to accommodate such a sudden influx of people — straining local communities and resources.
In 2022, countries like Pakistan, the Philippines, China, India, and Nigeria saw the most internal displacements due to disasters. In South Asia alone, 3.3 million people were internally displaced because of climate-related disasters.
One startling fact is that about 40% of the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people, live in areas highly vulnerable to climate change. They deal with water scarcity, droughts, extreme heat, sea-level rise, and catastrophic events like floods and cyclones. It’s a crisis affecting millions.
The harsh reality is that the Global South is disproportionately affected by climate change, even though they have contributed the least to the problem. For instance, the United Nations predicts that Africa will experience severe water shortages, displacing hundreds of millions by 2030.
Why is this happening? It’s because many developing nations face challenges like limited resources, outdated infrastructure, and ongoing conflicts that make them more susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
So, the big question is, where will people migrating from their home countries find refuge? It’s not just a problem for other countries to solve; it’s a global responsibility. We all need to step up and help those in need.
For instance, The Gross Domestic Climate Risk Ranking of 2600 territories reported that India and the United States have 80% of the world’s most vulnerable areas. Many residents might not realise the consequences of living in these high-risk zones.
So, what can we do about climate migration?
Sure, we can throw around buzzwords like “reducing emissions” and “better policies” or say we should provide “legal aid” to refugees. But here’s the thing: most people aren’t even aware that these crises are happening around us.
What we need is a massive wave of advocacy and civic action. We’re talking about regular folks like you and me coming together and making our voices heard on a grand scale. We must push our governments to prioritise real solutions over petty politics and surface-level gestures that might look good but don’t do much.
Imagine if millions of us started demanding action if we made it clear that we wouldn’t stand by while communities suffer. That’s when we’ll see the kind of change that truly makes a difference.
This article was strategised and written by Deepa Sai