BONN (Reuters) - Climate change will force millions of people to leave their homes to flee rising seas and drought over the coming decades, requiring a new plan for mass migration, said a report published on Wednesday.
Funds were needed to help migrants escape natural disasters which will worsen, threatening political stability, said the report published by the U.N. University, CARE International and Columbia University.
“Environmentally induced migration and displacement has the potential to become an unprecedented phenomenon — both in terms of scale and scope,” the study said.
“In coming decades, climate change will motivate or force millions of people to leave their homes in search of viable livelihoods and safety.”
The report said that the science of climate change was too new to forecast exact projected numbers of migrants, but it cited an International Organization for Migration estimate of 200 million environmentally induced migrants by 2050.
Wednesday’s study highlighted especially vulnerable regions of the world including: island states such as Tuvalu and the Maldives, dry areas such as Africa’s Sahel and in Mexico, and delta regions in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Egypt.
“In the densely populated Ganges, Mekong, and Nile River deltas, a sea level rise of 1 meter could affect 23.5 million people and reduce the land currently under intensive agriculture by at least 1.5 million hectares,” it said.
Climate scientists say sea levels could rise by at least a meter this century.
The world needed to invest to make poor communities and countries more resilient to climate change, the report said.
“These funds must be new and additional to existing commitments, such as those for Official Development Assistance,” said the report “In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement.”
For example, investment in irrigation would make farmers less dependent on rains. Education would also help — for example tilling the soil less leaves a protective mulch, which preserves moisture.
Migrants from climate disasters may need new rights, the report said. “Those displaced by the chronic impacts of climate change will require permanent resettlement. At present, people who move due to gradually worsening living conditions may be categorized as voluntary economic migrants and denied recognition of their special protection needs.”
U.N.-led talks to extend the Kyoto Protocol after 2012 are taking place in Bonn, and struggling with rich-poor splits on how to share the cost of preparing for and curbing climate change.