The rise of early Nile basin civilizations can be traced back to one of the most significant climatic changes of the last 11,000 years, a period of protracted hyperaridity that led not only to North Africa’s deserts we know today, but also to a multi-generational exodus depicted in much Saharan rupestrian art.
(In observance of the International Migrants Day on December 18)
You probably do not spend much time contemplating leaving your country of birth, your home, your family, your community and your job because rising sea levels are making your current place of residence too dangerous and difficult. But then, you probably do not live in Kiribati, a small state in the South Pacific with a population of just over 100,000, like Ioana Teitiota. He and his family have requested asylum in New Zealand claiming to be climate change refugees. Sea levels in Kiribati have been rising and are contaminating drinking water, destroying crops, flooding homes, and undermining livelihoods, but apparently, these imperatives are not (yet) enough.
(With Roberto Ponce)
Migration issues have been at the center of discussion in the international agenda, mainly because of the financial crises and the new protectionism measures implemented by developed countries. Despite these current issues, there are several long-term topics that will require further research and attention within next decades.
Regarding demographic changes, developed countries (Europe, Japan) are aging whileAfrica, Middle East, and South Asia still experience a transitional demographic change. The challenge will be to meet the needs of migrants with their specific requirements of skills in developed countries, and the offer of youth labor with their specific stock of skills from developing countries. Countries need to be ready to meet these demands.
Climate change has historically pushed people to migrate. There is widespread belief - fear? - that rising sea levels will force millions of people to migrate out of Bangladesh and Vietnam. If that happens, these migrants will spill into neighboring countries many of which are unlikely to be ready to take on migrants. Many will also sooner or later spread into far away countries in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.
What concerns me more is that this simplistic viewpoint has very little factual analytical backing. Data on migration trends over time are bad. Data on climate change as they relate to migration are even worse. What is worse, migration experts are not necessarily talking to the experts on climate change.
The impact of sea level rise from global warming could be catastrophic for many developing countries. The World Bank estimates that even a one meter rise would turn at least 56 million people in the developing world into environmental refugees.
Not only do countries need to start planning and implementing measures for adaptation, but the international community and some countries will need to devise an immigration strategy how to deal with populations who will be forced to resettle due to climate change.