A Climate of Displaced People

A Climate of Displaced People

A man delivers his goods through a flooded street in Mumbai, India. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hussain_quantum/3698717526/">Hussain_Quantum (flickr)</a>
A man delivers his goods through a flooded street in Mumbai, India. Photo: Hussain_Quantum (flickr)

It should be no surprise that armed conflicts force millions of people from their homes each year. In fact, 4.6 million people were displaced by conflict and war in 2008. But I was shocked to learn that the number of people displaced by climate change is four-times greater than those displaced by conflict. That's about 20 million people — roughly the population of Australia — that have been forced to relocate because of natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes and storms.

This figure comes from a joint study by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and is the first large-scale look at how climate change is effecting human populations. It provides data on exactly how carbon emissions have affected human lives, and it offers a somewhat harsh glimpse into what will happen if the situation is left unchecked.

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