Climate change threatens livelihoods of 80m people

Wednesday March 28 2018

African illegal migrants carry their belongings following their release from the Holot Detention Centre in Israel's Negev desert, on August 25, 2015. Climate change is expected to trigger migration of about 80 million people around the world. AFP PHOTO | MENAHEM KAHANA


As climate change continues to manifest around the world, more than 80 million people are set to be displaced by 2050, unless urgent action to contain global warming is taken.

In its latest report released a week ago, the World Bank warns that at least 86 million people in the region are at the risk of being transformed into climate migrants escaping crop failure, water scarcity and a rise in sea levels.

The report, Groundswell—Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, identified sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America — which account for 55 per cent of the developing world’s populations — as the “hotspots” with a total of 143 million people, representing 2.8 per cent of the regions’ populations expected to be displaced over the period.

“Every day, climate change becomes a more urgent economic, social, and existential threat to countries and their people. We see this in cities facing unprecedented water crises, in coastal areas experiencing destructive storm surges, and in once vibrant agricultural areas no longer able to sustain essential food crops,” said World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva.

In East Africa, the report estimates that the region could see about 10.1 million climate migrants by 2050.

Kenya’s and Tanzania’s coastal regions, western Uganda, and parts of the northern highlands of Ethiopia are the likely hotspots.


“These ‘hotspots’ are increasingly marginal areas and can include low-lying cities, coastlines vulnerable to sea level rise, and areas of high water and agriculture stress,” the report said.

Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and Tanzania’s and Dar Es Salaam will experience dampened population growth due to reliance on increasingly unpredictable rainfall and rising sea level and storm surges.

Kenya’s capital Nairobi, the Lake Victoria Basin and Ethiopia’s eastern highlands are likely to become areas of increased climate in-migration due to favourable climate conditions.

“Africans are highly dependent on the rain-fed agriculture. This means that successive rain failures leads to poor yields in the crop sub sector.

“Similarly for livestock, depressed rainfall leads to poor pasture regeneration leading to mass loss of livestock leading to hunger,” said James Kaoga, a Climate Change expert at the University of Nairobi told The EastAfrican.

The report calls for concerted action by governments across the globe to cut greenhouse gas emissions, efforts which it says, could reduce the number of climate migrants by 80 per cent to about 40 million people in all the three regions.

“We have a small window now, before the effects of climate change deepen, to prepare the ground for this new reality,” Ms Georgieva, said.