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Climate change could drive vast human migrations
Date:6/10/2009

By mid-century, people may be fleeing rising seas, droughts, floods and other effects of changing climate, in migrations that could vastly exceed the scope of anything before, says a major new report. The document, authored by researchers at Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), the United Nations University and CARE International, was released today at a news conference in Bonn. The researchers say that the effects of climate are hard to sort from connected factors including political and economic conflicts, extreme weather events, population growth, human destruction of ecosystems and overuse of farmland. However, they say, climate change will eventually play a dominant role by exacerbating all of these problems, and is already having detectable effects. While the report does not attempt to put numbers to those potentially uprooted, estimates from other reports it cites range from 25 million to 50 million by 2010, to almost 700 million by 2050. "Climate is the envelope in which all of us lead our daily lives. This report sounds warning bells," said coauthor Alexander de Sherbinin, a geographer at CIESIN. "We usually categorize the poor as the ones who will suffer mostbut richer societies will potentially lose as well." The report, In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement, is based on a first-time global survey of environmental change and migration. It is illustrated with a series of detailed maps, generated by CIESIN, that show how and where significant displacements may occur. Among its findings:

  • Breakdown of ecosystem-based economies including subsistence herding, farming and fishing will be the dominant driver of forced migration.

  • Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as cyclones, floods and droughts. Rains in parts of Mexico and Central America, f
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Contact: Kevin Krajick
kkrajick@ei.columbia.edu
212-854-9729
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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