If you think natural disasters have gotten worse recently, you may want to brace yourself. A new report says tens of millions will be forced to flee their homes before the end of this decade, because of climate change.
Researchers from Columbia University, the United Nations University, and CARE International issued In Search of Shelter to highlight the broad impacts of previously expected rising sea levels due to warming water and the new consensus that shows ice melts in Greenland and Antarctica. The two forces, combined, are expected to increase greatly the amount sea levels will rise by the end of this decade — warming waters alone are expected to contribute to a nearly 2 foot rise in sea levels by 2100.
The increased sea levels and ice melts are expected to cause flooding in India and the Himalayan foothills; droughts in Central Mexico; and massive human displacements throughout much of the world. According to the reports' authors, the numbers of climate migrants will reach epic proportions in our lifetimes.
Estimates of the likely numbers range from 25 to 50 million people by 2010, while the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has pitched a figure of 200 million by 2050.
The authors expect that much of this movement will be from rural to urban areas within affected countries, straining already strained cities and governments.
The authors of the study paint a pretty bleak portrait of the warmer years to come:
Unless aggressive measures are taken to halt global warming, the consequences for human migration and displacement could reach a scope and scale that vastly exceed anything that has occurred before. Climate change is already contributing to migration and displacement.
All major estimates project that the trend will rise to tens of millions of migrants in coming years. Within the next few decades, the consequences of climate change for human security efforts could be devastating.
Plus, as everyone knows, Waterworld really sucked.
[Image via UNHCR]