Recently, various studies have pointed out that disasters due to climate change have been displacing more people than conflicts. This phenomenon is being referred to as Environmental Migration. According to Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID, 2019), in 2018, of the total new 28 million internally displaced people in 148 countries, 61% were due to disasters (such as floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts) as compare to 39% due to conflict and violence. In India, climate change led to the displacement of 2.7 million Indians in 2019 (highest in the world.
Environmental Refugee is a specific term which covers only cross-border migrants forced to do so due to environmental factors. It has not been defined till date. These people not recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 protocol, and thus do not qualify for protection under national or international legal frameworks for refugee protection.
Climate change and environmental migration
- Due to greater frequency and intensity of weather-related natural disasters – both sudden- and slow-onset result in increased population movements.
- Rising sea levels may make coastal areas and low-lying islands uninhabitable.
- Competition over shrinking natural resources may exacerbate tensions and potentially lead to conflict and, in turn, to displacement.
- When household income in rural areas decreases, livelihood stress linked to climate change could, in some places, result in lower levels of outmigration. As migration requires resources, those people wanting to move but could not due to lack of resources become trapped populations.