Representational Image.(HT archive)
Representational Image.(HT archive)

Climate change-led migration in India could treble by 2050: Report

The research was undertaken by Bryan Jones, one of the authors of the World Bank’s Groundswell Report on internal climate migration in 2018
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Jayashree Nandi
UPDATED ON DEC 18, 2020 06:05 PM IST

Over 62 million South Asian people may have to migrate from their homes due to slow onset climate disasters such as sea-level rise, water stress, crop yield reductions, ecosystem loss and drought by 2050, according to a new report by Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) and Action Aid International.

In India, an estimated 14 million people may have migrated this year due to slow onset climate change events according to the report. This number is expected to more than treble if current nationally determined contributions are not enhanced and the world heads for 3.2 degrees C warming over pre-industrial levels.

The research was undertaken by Bryan Jones, one of the authors of the World Bank’s Groundswell Report on internal climate migration in 2018. He uses a model that projects future changes in the spatial distribution of the population, from which estimates of climate change led migration is drawn. Ecosystem loss and drought have been added as new drivers of climate migration, along with water and agriculture sectors that were included in the Groundswell report.

Also read | ‘India will achieve targets, exceed expectations’: PM Modi at UN Climate Ambition Summit

These numbers do not include migration caused by sudden climate disasters such as flooding and cyclone and the report also assumes that countries will start taking action towards meeting their pledges and targets under the Paris Agreement. Some examples of sudden climate disasters that have led to large scale migration in the recent past include cyclone Sidr in 2007 that caused damages to USD1.5 billion in Bangladesh; Amphan earlier this year caused losses worth USD13 billion and 118 lives; cyclone Bulbul, again in West Bengal last year, damaged crops across almost 1.5 million hectares of land, triggered fishery damage worth USD100 million, and killed 13, 286 livestock. However, in India, over 60% of agriculture is rain-fed. The region’s rural communities are thus highly sensitive to crop-destroying climatic shocks and 99.3% of south Asia’s agricultural workers are informal labour which makes them more vulnerable.

“Slow-onset climate impacts could cause countries in South Asia to lose nearly 2% of their GDP by 2050, rising to a loss of nearly 9% by 2100, without counting for the losses due to extreme weather events,” the report released on Friday has said. Some climate hot spots will experience displacement due to uninhabitable rising temperatures, eroding rivers and rising seas like the Sundarbans or the Mahanadi delta.

In their study of migration patterns, the report found that the poor in south Asia often sell their belongings and take loans at predatory interest rates to fund their migration. Forced movement often takes people to urban areas nearby and then to megacities where they are forced to take poorly waged unskilled jobs. Most of the internal movement within South Asia is considered as seasonal or circular migration, where some members of families migrate for a period of the year to another rural area or urban centre, falling agricultural incomes, rural communities across South Asia is also leading to a combination of incomes from agriculture and remittance sent by migrated members of their family.

“Political failure to limit global warming to below 2 degree C, as per the Paris agreement goal, is already driving 18 million climate migrants from their homes in 2020. New analysis, released today, estimates climate migration will treble in South Asia alone, a region badly affected by climate disasters including floods, droughts, typhoons and cyclones, a statement by CANSA said.

Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at Action Aid said that the migration patterns emerged from the 2011 census have been used to model impacts of climate change on movement of people for the report. “The Indian government hasn’t woken up to the reality of climate change yet. It doesn’t know how badly people and livelihoods are going to be impacted. We need to take various climate scenarios into account for the policies we develop which isn’t happening. The rich countries have historical responsibility but we have to prepare ourselves for the future.”

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