Displaced on the frontlines of the climate emergency

reliefweb • 22 April 2021

From the Sahel to Central America, climate change is driving displacement and increasing the vulnerability of those already forced to flee.

The climate emergency is the defining crisis of our time and displacement is one of its most devastating consequences. Entire populations are already suffering the impacts, but vulnerable people living in some of the most fragile and conflict-affected countries are disproportionately affected.

Refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and stateless persons are on the frontlines of the climate emergency. Many are living in climate “hotspots” where they typically lack the resources to adapt to an increasingly inhospitable environment.

The defining challenge

Climate change is real and human activities are the main cause. Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing average global temperatures faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization. The past six years have been the warmest on record.

The impacts of global warming are already being felt worldwide. Sea levels are rising, sea-ice is retreating, seasonal rainfall patterns are more unpredictable and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense.

Disaster displacement

Over the past decade, weather-related events triggered an average of 21.5 million new displacements* each year – more than twice as many as displacements caused by conflict and violence.

*”New displacements” refers to the number of movements. One individual could be forced to move more than once, with each movement counting as one new displacement.

Most people displaced by disasters remain within their home countries, often living in areas highly exposed to weather-related hazards, such as floods and storms. Some of them are unable to return home becoming internally displaced people, while a smaller number seek safety in other countries and may be in need of international protection.