The total number of displaced people in the world has now surpassed an astounding 70 million people. This total includes nearly 26 million refugees who have been forced to leave their country due to fear of persecution, war, famine, flood, disease, and often a combination of these factors. There is mounting evidence that the conditions leading so many to flee their homes can be tied to one major cause: climate change.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, is one of the leading bodies identifying and assisting the world’s climate refugees. The group advocates for international policy changes and provides material assistance and legal advice for those displaced by crisis. Considering the emergencies for which the UNHCR provides assistance, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five ongoing global refugee crises today related to climate change.
When considering the groups that can be most affected by climate change, many would likely first think of rising sea levels affecting the populations of small, low-lying island nations. For example: Kiribati, the Pacific Island nation of roughly 100,000 residents, is projected to be effectively uninhabitable within decades. Even in the United States, there are a number of coastal cities that will soon be under water.
But islands and low-lying inhabited areas are far from the only places on Earth where climate change is contributing to a refugee crisis. In fact, many of the worst active refugee crises in the world today are tied to worsening climate conditions. These emergencies are not expected to occur in the next few decades — they are already happening.
On every continent, water scarcity, drought, flooding, wildfires, and more — all conditions which have been shown to be increasing in intensity and frequency as a result of climate change — are displacing residents directly and exacerbating poor conditions for those who are fleeing their homes. Here are some of the places where weather is already getting worse because of climate change.
While violent conflict, the source of a great many of the world’s refugee crises, is not directly a condition of climate change, it is clear that worsening climate conditions are often a root cause of these conflicts.
If you want to get involved assisting these refugees and those who have been displaced by climate change, there are many ways you can help, including volunteering with a nonprofit that specifically works on behalf of climate refugees. You can also make a secure donation to the UNHCR, or to the International Rescue Committee, another leading nonprofit working for the welfare and rights of refugees of all kinds.