Climate Crisis: New Study Reveals How 20 Million People are Being Forced to Flee their Homes Every Year

Climate Crisis: New Study Reveals How 20 Million People are Being Forced to Flee their Homes Every Year

Oxfam study says that climate change, leading to natural disasters, is the biggest cause of internal displacement. Learn more below.

More than 20 million people are forced to leave their homes every year, Oxfam has revealed. The anti-poverty NGO released a new study, titled Forced from Home, on Monday, just before the start of the two-week Climate Change Conference COP25 taking place in Madrid, Spain from 2-13 December 2019. The study reveals that climate-fuelled disasters have been the leading cause of internal displacement over the past decade, with one person fleeing every two seconds. People are now seven times more likely to flee their homes following floods, cyclones and wildfires as they are after earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. They are also three times more likely to relocate due to these climate-fuelled crises as compared to war and conflict.

The report further reveals that no country will remain unaffected by these developments, as seen recently during the Australian wildfires and floods in Europe, which displaced thousands of people. However, people in poor countries are at a greater risk although their contribution towards global carbon pollution is much lower. Approximately 80 percent of the people displaced in the last ten years were in Asia, which consists of 60 percent of the global population and is home to over a third of the world’s extremely poor. Countries like India are four times more likely to be affected by climate-fueled displacement as compared to high income countries like Spain and the United States.

Highlighting these findings, Oxfam GB Chief Executive, Danny Sriskandarajah said, “Our governments urgently need to get to grips with a climate crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes. The poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price - climate change is forcing people around the globe – hungry farmers in Guatemala, pastoralists in Ethiopia and those hit by cyclones in Asia or Southern Africa – to abandon their homes and face up to an uncertain future.”

Oxfam is asking the international community to work on more fund recovery programmes for poor countries and displaced communities affected by the climate crisis, which will only intensify due to extreme weather projections. The report shows that the extreme weather disasters over the last decade have resulted in economic losses, on average, equivalent to two percent of countries’ national income. This figure is much higher for low-income and developing countries, and goes up to as high as 20 percent for Small Island Developing States.

Danny Sriskandarajah has also said, “Governments can and must make Madrid matter. They need to commit to faster, deeper emissions cuts and establish a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters.”

Climate Change Conference COP25

During the UN conference, countries will be negotiating on the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, setting out more ambitious targets for climate action in 2020 in order to save the planet. On Sunday, 1st December, UN Secretary General António Guterres addressed the media at a press conference, sharing the key takeaways from the World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Climate report, which will be published during COP25. He said, “The last five years have been the hottest ever recorded. Sea levels are at the highest in human history,” and added, “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and is hurtling towards us.” He said he expected “a clear demonstration of increased #ClimateAction ambition & commitment out of #COP25.”

Deputy chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Janine Felson spoke to the Guardian about her expectations from COP25. She said, “We see [these talks] as the last opportunity to take decisive action. Anything short of vastly greater commitment to emission reduction, a new climate finance goal and tangible support for disaster risk reduction will signal a willingness to accept catastrophe.”

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By Ayesha Hoda
Ayesha Hoda is a senior communications professional and writer, currently based in Dubai, UAE.