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Climate refugees, or climate migrants, are one of the many consequences of climate change. It refers to the growing group of people that are displaced due to natural disasters and/or a change in the climate. The latter is usually related to farmers, whose land has become very difficult or impossible to farm on. For example because of drought, rising water levels or changes in weather patterns.

Climate refugees are increasingly common today. People are displaced because of climate change every single day. These misplacements can be both within nations and across borders. More so, it is the most vulnerable communities in the world that are affected the most. According to the site Climate Refugee, up to 60 % of the 30.6 million people displaced in 2017 were climate refugees.

The term climate refugee

However, note that the term “climate refugee” is usually used by media and advocacy groups. It is not an acknowledged term. This is because “refugee” is a legal term that is used to define people who fear persecution for different reasons. For example due to religion or politics. Since climate refugees are not being persecuted, they have difficulties being defined as refugees. In other words, they do not fall under the traditional definition of a refugee. This fact can create problems for people who have to flee due to climate change. For instance, they might not get the same legal rights for protection as other refugees.

Photo of a forest fire, in relation to climate refugees.

Climate refugees in the future

If climate change fails to be addressed properly, there will be a large number of climate refugees in the future. For example, some scientists expect about 30 million refugees from India and China. More so, around 15 million people would be from Bangladesh and Egypt. By the year 2050, estimates state that there could be 150-200 million people that are misplaced due to climate change. Although others estimate up to 1.2 billion people. Overall, it is very difficult to guess how many people will be affected. As climate change creates chain reactions with consequences that can be hard to predict.

Refugees from Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a nation that is very vulnerable to climate change. As most of the nation’s land is very close to the current sea level. Since the currently melting ice will raise the sea level, most of the nation risks disappearing underwater.

Relevant documentaries

There are many documentaries to watch if one wants to learn about climate refugees. For example, the movie Climate Refugees, released in 2010, and Sun Come Up in 2011. The latter is about people who are forced to flee Papua New Guinea. These movies illustrate what life as a climate refugee could look like for a large part of the earth’s population.

Examples of source: Climate Refugees, OHCHR, We Forum


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