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

or instance, are projected to drop as much as 50% by 2080. Farmers in parts of Mexico and north Africa's Sahel region may already be moving in part due to changing rains.

  • Sea level rise directly threatens the existence of some 40 countries. Saltwater intrusion, flooding and erosion could destroy agriculture in the densely populated Mekong, Nile and Ganges deltas. A rise of two meters, or six feet--well within some projections for this century-- would inundate nearly half the Mekong's 3 million hectares (7.5 million acres) of farmland. Some Pacific island nations including the Maldives (pop. 300,000) are already considering prospects for total relocation.

  • Ongoing melting of alpine glaciers in the Himalayas will devastate the heavily irrigated farmlands of Asia by increasing floods and decreasing long-term water supplies. The glacier-fed basins of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irawaddy, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers now support over 1.4 billion people.

  • Most migrants will probably move within their own countries, or to countries next door. Many will be poor, and many will be unable to move far enough to improve their lots. Ripples from resulting conflicts and collapses will hit richer countries.

    Coauthor Charles Ehrhart, CARE's climate-change coordinator, called the potential impacts "startling." "Societies affected by climate change may find themselves locked into a downward spiral of ecological degradation, towards the bottom of which social safety nets collapse, while tensions and violence rise," said a statement from CARE. "In this all-too plausible scenario, large populations would be forced to migrate as a matter of immediate survival."

    De Sherbinin pointed out that human population is projected to grow from 6.8 billion today, to 9 billion by 2050. "Countries are running out of places to put people productively," he said. "You can't just stockpile people."

    The report says it is vital that
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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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