Climate Change And Its Effects On Migration In The 21st century – Environmental Migration

Updated: Apr 10, 2019


“We know that climate change is a driver of migration, and is expected to increase the displacement of populations.” – Mary Robinson



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By 2018 Climate Change became one of the main characters in The Play of Humanity. Most people accept the fact that the temperature on Earth is rising and realize the importance of one’s deed but only few are aware of the fact that if we won’t act today, we won’t have a place to live tomorrow. Heavy droughts, floods, hurricanes and dog days, more intense than ever before, make our lives even more complicated and troublesome. Not to mention the health consequences of this weather on people, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. To avoid heat waves people usually turn on the air conditioner which, on the other hand, increases greenhouse gas emission contributing to climate change.

It is clear that one of the main problems climate change induces is migration. Especially in the recent years millions of people had to leave their homes due to persecution, wars, politics, poverty, hunger and economics. However, climate change and environmental issues also force a big number of people to move to other places. Men, women, children, families who did not have any other chance but leaving their homes within or outside the national borders. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there were 244 million international migrants in 2015, which is 40% more than it was in 2000. Out of this, over 19 million were internally displaced because of climate or weather releated disaster.


Food problems


Even the smallest change in temperature has an impact on Earth. Crops are extremely sensitive to climate change thus the agricultural sector is in a crisis. It was predicted by many scientist and journalist, e.g. nature.com – the international journal of science, that only a small amount of time is needed and northern territories will be suitable to produce fruits that were not found there before while central areas may go as dry and hot as the mediterranean areas are today, turning the countries’ economies totally upside down. Agriculture is not only a challenge because it has to adopt to the changes in climate, farmers also have to face the increasing demand for food to be able to feed the growing population, which, according to FAO, may increase with 60% by 2050.


Another arising problem linked to food production and food security is the question of land. Desertification, land degradation and the lack of natural resources are roots for migration. People who are heavily dependent on agricultural and nature based activities or living in rural areas will have to learn how to cope with the new phenomenon, droughts and less water, to be able to provide a living for their families and themselves. Food is necessary to maintain life and growth, one cannot live without it.


Water scarcity, one of the biggest motivations for migration


The most important factor for migration is water scarcity – the shortage of something that is crucial for life. It is said that there is enough fresh water on Earth for 7 billion people but it is distributed unevenly or otherwise wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed. This means that 40% of the entire population, according to WHO, has little or no access to clean water, therefore the right for an adequate life. From the several causes of water scarcity, including pollution, overpopulation, inadequate infrastructure development, human conflicts and corruption, climate change has a significant role, especially when we are talking about the shrinking of lakes and rivers.


Water shortage encourages people to store water in homes, in big containers, which increases the risk of water contamination, water-borne diseases that may lead to cholera, typhoid fever, plague and serves a breeding ground for mosquitoes, carrying malaria. People threatened by dehydration are willing to drink water from any source risking their own health. A land without water is not liveable and has big impact on the wildlife and thus also on food.


In developing countries women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water making them walk even hundreds of kilometers with heavy bowls, which eventuates in muscle damage and makes them an easy target for sexual abuse, causing unwanted pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy is the number 1 reason for school dropouts, which contributes to overpopulation, as girls will not get the necessary knowledge on the world and family planning. Overpopulation and water scarcity are among the most important reasons for migration which heavily affects today’s world.




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Do we have a solution?


Attempts to solve this challenge include helping to build suitable livelihoods, adopting new techniques in agriculture, growing drought resistant crops and new inventions and ideas to solve water scarcity such as the desalination of salt water, rainwater harvesting, fog catcher and irrigation at night. Another key point is education and raising awareness.


Climate change is definitely redrawing the map of where people can live. Even those who did not have an impact on the environment are forced to leave their countries and are now seeking asylum. People could not find the right solution to tackle this problem but one single thing you can make is paying attention to the environment. Migration is a global problem, just as climate change.






Written by: Rebeka Oláh


Rebeka Oláh is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.



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