Are we facing a looming migration catastrophe?

Here at Emerging Risks we like to think we have a fairly decent handle on the world of risk (well, we hope so!) but really, despite the reams of coverage we give to climate change, cyber risk and life sciences risks, to name but a few of the broader subject areas we touch upon.

I think it’s fair to say we are only really scraping the surface when it comes to the risk landscape as the century progresses.

I’ll be more precise and say that one of the stories we posted this week points to a threat which could prove to be considerably destabilising for the world economy and one which could make present concerns seem fairly minor.

As we report, scientists fear the ongoing impact of climate change is set to trigger a “huge wave” of migration as millions seek to move to areas where there are sufficient food and water supplies with ever greater parts of the world becoming uninhabitable.

The warning comes from a team which has studied the growing links between extreme heat and population movement. Researchers, led by a team from the University of Gothenburg, said climate change is a reality and extremely high temperatures have been reported by India and Pakistan in the spring. Their study paints a gloomy picture for the rest of the century.

“Heat waves are expected to increase, affecting up to half a billion people every year,” it said. “In turn, they can lead to food shortages, deaths and refugee flows when the heat reaches levels that exceed what humans can tolerate.”

The team from Gothenburg are in good company: climate change could displace more than 200 million people internally within their own country by 2050, says a recent report from the World Bank. Along with this dramatic prediction, the Bank’s Groundswell report suggests that taking urgent steps to mitigate the impact of climate change could reduce the number of people displaced by up to 80 percent.

According to the report, by 2050 there could be up to 86 million internal climate migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as 49 million in the East Asia and Pacific region, 40 million in South Asia, 19 million in North Africa, 17 million in Latin America, and 5 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Disturbing? Just a little.

Marcus Alcock, Editor 

Emerging Risks