We’ve been talking about this idea that climate change is going to cause a lot of mass migration, and the claim that it won’t be a problem if we just have open borders everywhere. I find that claim not at all credible, so I thought I would gesture toward a source or two.
The Center for American Progress has a report.
From the summary:
Recent intelligence reports and war games, including some conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, conclude that over the next two or three decades, vulnerable regions (particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia) will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises, and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change. These developments could demand U.S., European, and international humanitarian relief or military responses, often the delivery vehicle for aid in crisis situations.
That seems odd at first blush, but of course the military has the equipment and the personnel to do jobs like that…assuming, that is, it’s not all tied-up with a grotesquely ill-advised war.
But will there be migration or not?
In the 21st century the world could see substantial numbers of climate migrants—people displaced by either the slow or sudden onset of the effects of climate change. The United Nations’ recent Human Development Report stated that, worldwide, there are already an estimated 700 million internal migrants—those leaving their homes within their own countries—a number that includes people whose migration is related to climate change and environmental factors. Overall migration across national borders is already at approximately 214 million people worldwide, with estimates of up to 20 million displaced in 2008 alone because of a rising sea level, desertification, and flooding.
One expert, Oli Brown of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, predicts a tenfold increase in the current number of internally displaced persons and international refugees by 2050. It is important to acknowledge that there is no consensus on this estimate. In fact there is major disagreement among experts about how to identify climate as a causal factor in internal and international migration.
It’s not going to come with labels on it. Most migrants aren’t going to say “I’m here because of climate change.”
But even though the root causes of human mobility are not always easy to decipher, the policy challenges posed by that movement are real. A 2009 report by the International Organization for Migration produced in cooperation with the United Nations University and the Climate Change, Environment and Migration Alliance cites numbers that range from “200 million to 1 billion migrants from cli- mate change alone, by 2050,” arguing that “environmental drivers of migration are often coupled with economic, social and developmental factors that can accelerate and to a certain extent mask the impact of climate change.”
The report also notes that “migration can result from different environmental factors, among them gradual environmental degradation (including desertification, soil and coastal erosion) and natural disasters (such as earthquakes, floods or tropical storms).” (See box on page 15 for a more detailed definition of climate migrants.) Clearly, then, climate change is expected to aggravate many existing migratory pressures around the world. Indeed associated extreme weather events resulting in drought, floods, and disease are projected to increase the number of sudden humanitarian crises and disasters in areas least able to cope, such as those already mired in poverty or prone to conflict.