The UN Is Sounding the Alarm on 'Climate Refugees'
For the first time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has included climate change in its annual report laying out what events cause refugees to flee. It signals a growing consensus around the risks climate poses, even if it doesn’t change much for the people actually forced to flee their homes after a cyclone or hurricane hits.
The UNHCR’s Global Trends report, released last week, found that one out of every 97 people in the world faced forced displacement last year. For many people, war and conflict continue to push them from their homes. However, the climate crisis poses an emerging threat. Extreme weather can displace people and long-term environmental changes like sea-level rise and drought are exacerbating threats that already exist. The report briefly mentions examples of both, noting that the “interplay between climate, conflict, hunger, poverty, and persecution creates increasingly complex emergencies.”
Kathryn Mahoney, a global spokesperson for UNHCR, told Earther that the agency is “particularly concerned about the risk of climate-related displacement of people.”
“The impacts of climate change are unevenly weighted against the world’s most vulnerable people: Those who are the poorest, most exposed, and have the least resources to withstand climate shocks and stresses,” she wrote in an email. “The reality is that climate change is forcing people around the world to leave their homes and even their countries.
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