Published on People Move

Climate change and the migration fallout

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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.


Susmita Dasgupta and others estimate in a recent paper that within this century, hundreds of millions of people are likely to be displaced by the sea level rising. Countries have not previously faced a crisis on this scale. The authors have made some calculations by different impacts: population, urban extent, agricultural extent, gross domestic product and wetlands. East Asia and the Middle East and North Africa regions would experience the largest impact. However, not all developing countries will be impacted equally. 

Bangladesh will be potentially affected if the sea level rises by 3 meters. According to the model, as the sea level rises, the impact on Bangladesh’s population increases. The displaced population from Bangladesh will go to India. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand can also be affected by the influx from the Pacific Islands’ population displaced because of climate change.


Some migration issues to think about:

  • How to cope with the displacement of large populations?
  • Some countries will be in better position to absorb influx of populations while others will face serious issues such as India. How much resources will these countries need to manage a large influx?  How can xenophobic demonstrations be avoided?
  • Will it be possible that resettlement takes place in an orderly way? Will there be a change in immigration policies to accept permanent migration in certain countries?


Sonia Plaza

Senior Economist, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice, World Bank

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