Alarmingly, non-profit group Oxfam has found that climate change displacement impacts another person every two seconds.. That amounts to roughly 20 million people a year who are forced away from their homes or over 200 million in the past decade. And without proper action, climate displacement will only get worse with time. It’s time to shed some light on this worsening issue.
Climate Change Displacement On The Rise
In the lead up to the UN’s Climate Summit in Madrid, Oxfam published a report on Monday raising awareness for the global issue of climate change displacement. The report expects to put this issue into the spotlight during these international climate talks.
According to the report, climate-related disasters have become the number one reason for internal displacement in the past decade.
To put that in perspective, people are now three times more likely to be displaced by a climate disaster than by political conflict. And cyclones, floods, and wildfires pose much more serious threats than earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. What’s worse? The number of these climate-related disasters has also increased five-fold in the past decade.
And while anyone could face displacement, Oxfam asserts that the poorest countries face the most at risk, despite their minimal responsibility for the climate crisis.
Hitting The Most Vulnerable First
“While no one is immune, it is overwhelmingly poor countries that are most at risk,” stated Oxfam’s press release.
For reference, eighty percent of global climate change displacement occurs in Asia, home to one-third of the world’s poorest population. And low- or middle- income countries like India, Nigeria, and Bolivia are four times as likely as rich countries like the U.S. to face climate change displacement.
Moreover, the consequences can become just as extreme as the weather events themselves. For example, extreme weather displaced almost five percent of Cuba, Dominica, and Tuvalu‘s populations each year of the past decade.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are also at high risk. They make up seven of the ten countries most at risk for internal displacement due to extreme weather. And displacement has economic consequences as well. A Small Island Developing State can lose up to 20% of its national income because of extreme weather disasters.
These countries can be up to 150 times more likely to face climate change displacement than European communities. And what’s particularly concerning is the threat faced by displaced women. During displacement, they are subjected to a greater risk of sexual violence.
“Our governments are fueling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price,” said Chema Vera, Oxfam International’s Acting Executive Director.
So What Now?
The short answer: we must take immediate action.
Luckily, the UN will review its progress since enacting its “Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage” mandate while in Madrid.
The mandate calls for “[enhanced] action and support, including finance, technology, and capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.”
Accordingly, climate activists and developing countries are encouraging the UN to build a separate fund for communities recovering from climate disasters. Such a fund could help alleviate the impact of climate change displacement.
“Governments can and must make Madrid matter. They must commit to faster, deeper emissions cuts. Further, they must establish a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters,” Vera said.
What Oxfam Thinks We Should Do About Climate Change Displacement
But no one action is enough. Climate change displacement and refugee crises will only crescendo in the coming years. We must do more to halt its consequences. So far, the international community has done very little.
But finding a fix is more important than ever. Here’s how Oxfam puts it. “As the 2019 UN Climate Summit opens, Oxfam is calling for more urgent and ambitious emissions reductions to minimize the impact of the crisis on people’s lives, and the establishment of a new ‘Loss and Damage’ finance facility to help communities recover and rebuild.”