This article was written in Croatian and published with the cooperation of Telegram.hr. The text below is the original text translated in English.
An estimated 1.2 billion climate migrants are expected by 2050. We researched what we can do to help them today
People are often the forgotten victims of climate change; you can help by signing the petition.
As the consequences of climate change threaten global society more and more each day, it is unsurprising that living conditions around the world are also becoming increasingly precarious. In addition to increasingly extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels and damaged ecosystems, the very existence of billions of people is at stake.
According to a United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Report, since 2008, about 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their places of residence due to devastating weather-related events, such as floods, storms, droughts, fires and excessive temperatures.
Water and food shortages
The worst-case scenario is yet to unfold. According to a report by the leading international Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), climate change and natural disasters could lead to an estimated 1.2 billion people being globally displaced by 2050.
By that same year, 3.5 billion people could suffer from food insecurity, an increase of 1.5 billion people compared to today.
By 2040, however, a total of 5.4 billion people – more than half of the projected world population – are predicted to live in the 59 countries with severe or extreme water scarcity, including India and China.
As a result, we are hearing more and more about the problems faced by climate migrants – people who, due to the consequences of climate change, have to leave their homes, and sometimes even go beyond the borders of the country where they have spent most of their lives.
A concrete example of this were the hurricanes that hit Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in November 2020. As a result of the floods and landslides, people lost their homes, livelihoods and access to clean water and were forced to cross the border – to Mexico and the USA.
Natural disasters take lives
In the Asia-Pacific region many individuals did not even get a chance to migrate, as natural disasters have claimed more than 580,000 lives in the region since 1990. The leading causes of death from natural disasters were earthquakes and devastating storms.
In 2010, China faced floods and landslides that displaced 15.2 million people. In the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, floods displaced 1.8 million people, while Cyclone Komen and monsoon floods in Myanmar and India displaced 1.6 million people.
Many countries are also at risk due to sea level rise. Over the next three decades, significant impacts will be felt especially by coastal areas in China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, as well as cities such as Alexandria in Egypt, The Hague in the Netherlands and Osaka in Japan.
The most affected countries are already suffering
The regions currently facing the greatest number of environmental threats are Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, while some of the most affected countries are Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran.
Making the situation even more concerning is the fact that a large number of countries – including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Chad, are also struggling with the devastation of war in addition to natural disasters.
Rapidly increasing insecurity
The combination of such events results in not only mass emigration, but also the deterioration of food quality, rapidly increasing insecurity, a struggle over existing resources and increasingly: civil unrest.
At the same time, developed countries are exposed to an increased influx of migrants and are faced with the issues of their care and status.
The issue of the status of climate migrants
The fact that people displaced by climate change currently do not have the same internationally protected status as, for example, people who flee their country due to war is a major problem. This means that they do not have access to legal protections of their human rights, for example the protection from deportation.
To correct this situation, governments and legal bodies of those countries that are not in the zones at high risk of climate change impact must reshape their existing laws and conditions to accommodate climate migrants as soon as possible.
If this is not done, the growing number of climate migrants will negatively affect regional and global social stability, international relations, and security. Climate change will cause a terrifying domino effect where people will, unfortunately, be forgotten victims.
The advent of a climate of change
Even though Croatia is not currently a direct target of the consequences of climate change, this does not mean that it cannot and should not act. To begin with, society must be made aware of the global challenges we face. People must be acquainted with the current situation, the impact of climate change and the concept of climate migrants.
For this reason, CROSOL – the Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity, along with 25 other organizations from 22 EU member states is implementing the project: ‘Climate of Change.’ The main goal of the project is to initiate systemic changes aimed at achieving climate justice.
Young people are aware of the risks
The results of a survey conducted in 22 EU countries which examined the opinions and attitudes of young people on the relationship between climate change and migration also support the conclusion that changes are necessary.
Specifically, 68 percent of respondents said that they are not very or not at all familiar with the term ‘climate migrant’, while only 17 percent of respondents think that climate change is the most common reason for migration.
Nevertheless, young people are aware of the risks and think that something should be done. Consequently, 50 percent of them think that climate migrants should have the same legal protections as people fleeing war or persecution.
Signing on to a sustainable future
Such legal protections and other needs could be met by the collected signatures of the ‘Climate of Change’ petition, which will demand concrete measures from the European Commission to create a just and sustainable future.
One of the main goals of the petition is to provide protection to migrants whose displacement is caused by climate change. Signatures are being collected in 22 EU member states so that everyone can be part of the change. Citizens of Croatia can also participate in this petition.
Prioritizing the interests of society and nature
Amongst other things, your signature will demand a strong shift towards an economy based on socially and ecologically just wellbeing that is not measured by GDP but puts the interests of society and nature above the interests of corporations.
Participating in this petition is a small but valuable part of the big fight for a better future for people and the planet. In the era of climate change, you have the opportunity to be part of the climate of change and use your voice today to fight for a sustainable tomorrow.