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.