Climate-Intensified Storms Will Displace 200 Million People Over Next Two Decades

Climate-Intensified Storms Will Displace 200 Million People Over Next Two Decades

Storms intensified by climate change are projected to displace 200 million people over the next 20 years, according to new analysis by ShelterBox, a disaster-relief nonprofit. The figure was calculated using the average number of people displaced over the past five years (11.2 million people) and the assumption that displacement would continue at the same rate for the next two decades. The number they came up with is in line with the World Bank’s projection that there would be 216 million climate refugees by mid-century. Climate-intensified weather events, like the recent flooding in South Africa and damage from Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America, are already forcing people from their homes.

As ShelterBox CEO Sanj Srikanthan told CBS News:

I think it is already appalling because what we're seeing is that there aren't major disasters, which is what we used to call them, but lots of micro-disasters that are occurring all the time … So the issue we are having is that there are huge amounts of the population on Earth, around 70%, that live near water or coastal areas and many of those homes are not designed for this kind of weather so it can prove to be a truly overwhelming crisis.

CBS: Climate change could displace 200 million in 20 years, disaster relief organization warns, June 1, 2022.

AFP: Climate migrants: who are they and where will they go?, February 28, 2022.

Amanpour and Company (PBS): The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, May 24, 2021.

VICE: Oregon Already Has a Climate Refugee Crisis, August 19, 2021.

Why This Matters

These stark projections call for one response: to do what’s possible now and reduce the number of people that will inevitably be displaced. The planet is projected to hit 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the decade, bringing about even more intense heat and extreme weather. While some degree of climate change is unavoidable due to emissions already in the atmosphere, the faster the world gets off fossil fuels and stops pumping carbon into the air, the better.

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.

MSNBC: We Must Pay Attention To 'Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.

DW: Time is running out | WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.

Displacement Doesn’t Need A Catastrophic Storm

While a massive hurricane or flood can feel like an isolated event, specific to a region -- extreme weather can take other forms too, like heatwaves, which are increasingly wide-sweeping and most deadly. Over the past few months, India and Pakistan have experienced sweltering triple-digit temperatures that have broken national and global records and are literally unlivable. Without access to cooling like air conditioning, "even a healthy person exposed to these temperatures for more than seven or eight hours can not survive,” Fahad Saeed, a climate scientist at Climate Analytics, told Inside Climate News.

PBS: India's deadly heatwave shows the real-world effects of climate change, May 8, 2022.

Environmental Social Justice: Extreme Heat | The "Silent Killer," August 25, 2021.

WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis, September 9, 2020.