2 Billion Could Become Climate Refugees From Rising Seas by 2100, Study Says

July 27, 2017

Weather.com – Science, 28 July 2017

An estimated 2 billion people be displaced from their homes by 2100 due to climate-driven rising seas, a new study says.Roughly one-fifth of the world’s population may become climate change refugees, according to Cornell University. The majority of those will be people who live on coastlines around the world, including about 2 million in Florida alone.

“We’re going to have more people on less land and sooner that we think,” lead author Charles Geisler, professor emeritus of development sociology at Cornell, said in a press release. “The future rise in global mean sea level probably won’t be gradual. Yet few policymakers are taking stock of the significant barriers to entry that coastal climate refugees, like other refugees, will encounter when they migrate to higher ground.”

The researchers looked at a United Nations report that estimates the world’s population will be 9 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100.

The Cornell report noted that by 2060, about 1.4 billion people will need to relocate to escape rising seas levels.

“The colliding forces of human fertility, submerging coastal zones, residential retreat, and impediments to inland resettlement is a huge problem. We offer preliminary estimates of the lands unlikely to support new waves of climate refugees due to the residues of war, exhausted natural resources, declining net primary productivity, desertification, urban sprawl, land concentration, ‘paving the planet’ with roads and greenhouse gas storage zones offsetting permafrost melt,” Geisler said.

A family on a raft approaches a boat at flood affected area in Jamalpur.(Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Other concerns noted in the paper are intensifying storm surges that will drive sea water further inland, ruining fertile land needed to feed billions.

The paper will be published in the July issue of the journal Land Use Policy and offers solutions and proactive adaptations in places like Florida, which has the second-largest coastline in the U.S. Geisler noted that state and local officials already have plans in place for a “coastal exodus.”  (MORE: U.S. Vulnerable to Worst of Extreme Sea Rise)

The study comes on the heels of another study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with findings compiled by University of Siegen (Germany) researcher Sönke Dangendorf, as well as scientists from Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands. In the study, the researchers’ analysis suggests the long-warned acceleration in sea level rise is no longer imminent – it’s already underway.

According to the study, sea levels rose at about 1.1 millimeters annually, or 0.43 inches per decade, before 1990, but from 1993 to 2012, seas rose at a much higher annual rate: 3.1 millimeters every year, or 1.22 inches per decade. It may seem like a small rise, but it’s alarming to scientists that the rate has tripled in a relatively short period of time.

Just recently President Donald Trump told the mayor of Tangier Island, Virginia, not to worry about rising seas despite evidence that the island that is home to 700 is sinking. After appearing on CNN about the island’s plight, Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge received a phone call from the president, who reassured the mayor that the island “has been here for hundreds of years, and will be here for hundreds more.”

By Via Agusta, Eco-Business, 26 July 2017 Climate change will force mass migration of 1 billion by 2100 (Asia)

Asia Pacific is the most vulnerable region to climate change, Bangladesh is the country most at risk, and poor people are to be hit the hardest, prompting migration on a massive scale, a sobering report by Asian Development Bank has found.

Massive migration is foreseen all over the world by the end of the century, with the Asia-Pacific region identified as the most vulnerable if the current climate change scenario does not improve.“Migration is happening all the time, but with unabated global warming … we’ll have to move over a billion [people],” said Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of climate science research institute Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in a press conference last Friday.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the PIK released a joint report called A Region at Risk: the Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific, which showed that the region faces severe consequences for the environment, economy and human living conditions as a result of climate change.

Professor Schellnhuber noted how a rich and well-organised country like his native Germany is able to take in more than a million refugees in a year at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis. However, less developed countries in Asia may not be as ready and may lack the same capacity to take in large influxes of migrants fleeing the effects of climate change.

Coastal and land areas most vulnerable to climate change. Image: ADB

According to the report, a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times is projected for some parts of Asia and the Pacific by the year 2100. Such increases in temperature will lead to drastic changes in the region’s weather systems, agriculture and fisheries, biodiversity, trade and urban development.

Large temperature increases are the likely result of a reliance on fossil fuels – which continue to dominate the region’s energy mix – and extreme heat events that typically happen once in hundreds or millions of years will become a daily, year-round occurence, with more pronounced effects in the tropics, the report predicted.

A summer heat wave known as a 3-sigma event that happens once in 740 years, and an event stronger 5-sigma event that occurs once in 3 million years, could become commonplace in tropical countries such as those of Southeast Asia by the late 21st century.

The living conditions that result in the tropics would make it almost impossible for people to live outside, prompting migration on a massive scale.

The following six Asia-Pacific territories are the most susceptible to climate change-related migration: Bangladesh, which has the world’s largest delta, the Philippines archipelago, China, which suffers from droughts, the Mekong Delta, which faces a serious food security issue, the flood-prone Indus Delta, and small island states like Tuvalu, Maldives and Fiji.

Climate impacts and possible migration routes in China. Image: ADB

Another side-effect of climate change for Asia is likely to be severe economic damage.

Despite the region’s unprecedented economic growth in recent years, Asia Pacific is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor, according to ADB vice-president for knowledge management, Bambang Susantono.

Climate change will significantly impact agriculture, a sector on which the majority of the region’s poor depend.

Child deaths attributable to climate change by 2030 and 2050. Image: ADB

“In South Asia, food shortages induced by climate change could increase the number of malnourished children by 7 million by 2050,” Susantono noted.

The poor living in coastal areas also depend on marine ecosystems for their livelihoods, and these ecosystems are seriously threatened by climate change.

Many of Asia’s urban poor live in low-lying coastal areas that ar emost exposed to floods and storm surges.

Schellnhuber demanded urgent action for Asia to contribute to the fight against climate change.

“Asia is now the economic powerhouse of the world, but the values are being generated using the old conventional model of industrialisation,” he said.

“Asia needs to leapfrog Europe and US, particularly in the energy sector. When we look at expected growth, it will all come from Asia. If Asia can turn the tide, the region will make a major contribution to the survival of our civilisation,” Schellnhuber said.

He highlighted steps the region needed to take to combat climate change.

Asia should switch to renewable energy, introducing more solar infrastructure as it is scalable and can be applied and deployed anywhere.

He urged for a shift to the use of conventional materials like clay or wood in construction as an alternative to concrete or steel, as this is less carbon intensive.

Third, transport needed to be powered using hydrogen instead of gasoline.

Finally, cities need to integrate climate adaption and mitigation in urban planning to reduce emissions and improve the quality of life in cities.

Meanwhile, Susantono reiterated the ADB’s commitment to abate the issue. The bank is pledging to double its climate financing to US$6 billion annually until 2020, with US$2 billion for mitigation and US$4 billion for adaption.

This money will be spent on energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, urban development, as well as agriculture and infrastructure.