Thursday, October 20, 2011

Climate change migration warning issued through report

Pallab Ghosh in BBC News: Governments and aid agencies should help the world's poorest to move away from areas likely to be hit by flooding and drought, a UK report says. The government-commissioned report warns of potential humanitarian disasters because of climate change.

It says the cost of acting now would be much less than the cost of the conflicts and huge loss of life that would otherwise ensue. The report focused on the issue of human migration patterns. The Migration and Global Environmental Change Foresight Report is the most detailed study carried out on the effect of flooding, drought and rising sea levels on human migration patterns over the next 50 years.

The government's chief scientist, Professor Sir John Beddington, who commissioned the study, said that environmental change would hit the world's poorest the hardest and that millions of them would inadvertently migrate toward, rather than away from, areas that are most vulnerable. "[These people] will be trapped in dangerous conditions and unable to be moved to safety," he said. "It is essential that we do all we can to both address environmental change and make sure that people are as resilient as possible.”

One of the reasons the report was commissioned was to examine concerns that the environmental degradation caused by climate change would lead to millions of so-called climate refugees abandoning sterile farmland and migrating to countries less affected by the problem.

Detailed analysis commissioned specifically for the study found that this was unlikely to be the case. Three-quarters of the migration, it says would be within national borders - predominantly from rural to urban areas.

The issue, according to Professor Beddington, was to ensure that the migration was properly managed - otherwise, he said, it was likely there would be widespread humanitarian disasters on an unprecedented scale. "It is essential that we do all we can to both address environmental change and make sure that people are as resilient as possible. This means recognising the role migration can play in helping people cope," he said....

People fleeing floods in Sri Lanka in 2008, shot by trokilinochchi, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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