Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Experts call for better data on climate change migrants

Reuters AlertNet: There's no shortage of researchers lining up to tell us that climate change poses a big threat to coastal cities and their populations - from Dhaka to New Orleans to Mombasa. At the recent launch of the U.N.'s State of the World's Cities 2008/2009 report, lead author Eduardo Lopez Moreno noted that 3,351 of the world's cities are located in what's known as the "low elevation coastal zone" - less than 10 metres above sea level.

"In case there is an increase in sea level, there will be a displaced population of more or less 400 million people," he told reporters. It's a jaw-droppingly big figure. But how accurate are such warnings, and how useful are they?

….Worryingly, no one seems to have a definitive answer to these questions. According to a report from the U.N. news service IRIN, nowhere is the debate more heated than in Bangladesh - often cited as a country under threat from rising seas.

…As highlighted in the latest issue of Forced Migration Review (FMR) - which focuses on climate change and displacement - humanitarian and development workers are under pressure to respond to the consequences of global warming without really knowing what they're up against. The U.N. deputy high commissioner for refugees, Craig L Johnstone, describes the status quo in stark terms - arguing that we've hit an "analytical stone wall" and are in "desperate need of a better understanding of the size and the characteristics of this issue".

…The article argues that getting a better handle on climate-related migration will require an effort to develop "objective and empirically-based detailed numerical scenarios". And to produce these, we need more advanced computer models, better base-line data and and increased capacity of institutions and governments to track the movement of forced migrants within and across national boundaries, Brown says….

From 1950, Korean refugee carrying her belongings in a jug on her head, while fleeing from Pohang, South Korea. Photo by US Navy

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