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Climate Change Could Force 49 Million People to Migrate in East Asia and the Pacific

Out-migration hotspots in agricultural areas of central Thailand and Myanmar coincide with areas expected to see declines in both water availability and crop productivity

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The World Bank’s updated Groundswell report released today finds that climate change, an increasingly potent driver of migration, could force 216 million people across six world regions to move within their countries by 2050.

Hotspots of internal climate migration could emerge as early as 2030 and continue to spread and intensify by 2050.

The report also finds that immediate and concerted action to reduce global emissions, and support green, inclusive, and resilient development, could reduce the scale of climate migration by as much as 80 percent.

Climate change is a powerful driver of internal migration because of its impacts on people’s livelihoods and loss of livability in highly exposed locations.

By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants; East Asia and the Pacific, 49 million; South Asia, 40 million; North Africa, 19 million; Latin America, 17 million; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 5 million.

The Mekong Delta could emerge as a hotspot

In the Lower Mekong subregion, sea-level rise, augmented by storm surge, is projected to create climate out-migration hotspots in some densely populated, low-lying coastal regions—such as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Sea-level rise and related impacts there pose threats to key livelihoods, including rice production,
aquaculture, and fisheries. Climate in-migration hotspots are projected to emerge in areas where the population is already growing, such as the Red River Delta and the coastal central region of Vietnam.

Both may see more favorable water availability and crop productivity conditions, but they are also very vulnerable to increasingly frequent and severe tropical storms. Out-migration hotspots in agricultural areas of central Thailand and Myanmar coincide with areas expected to see declines in both water availability and crop productivity, while in-migration hotspots to the southeast of Phnom Penh in Cambodia along the Mekong River and southern Myanmar are expected to see increases in both factors.

The Groundswell report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on the world’s poorest—those who are contributing the least to its causes. It also clearly lays out a path for countries to address some of the key factors that are causing climate-driven migration,” said Juergen Voegele, Vice President of Sustainable Development, World Bank. “All these issues are fundamentally connected which is why our support to countries is positioned to deliver on climate and development objectives together while building a more sustainable, safe and resilient future.”

In many places, internal climate migration will amplify patterns of mobility that are already unfolding. The regional and country-level analyses in this report highlight the importance of tailoring approaches to the different needs, risks, and opportunities identified in emerging hotspots of climate in- and out-migration.

Notably, many out migration hotspots are economic and population growth centers that will continue to support large numbers of people despite increasing climate change impacts. This includes the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where those who remain will face significant social, economic, and environmental risks, including from severe floods.

Source: World Bank

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