“This (62 million) is almost as many people as are forced from their homes globally due to war and conflict, raising the alarm that climate can no longer be overlooked as a major factor driving displacement,” said the study.
The research, factoring in slow-onset climate impacts such as sea-level rise, water stress, crop yield reductions, ecosystem loss and drought over a period of time, has brought in the estimated figures of migration across India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It shows India will face the highest migration (45.5 million) followed by Sri Lanka (11.5 million), Bangladesh (3.3 million), Pakistan (1.9 million) and Nepal (0.5 million) by 2050.
The migration will, however, be restricted to 34 million if the countries across the globe in general and big emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in particular collectively work to restrict the average global temperature rise to around 2 degree Celsius through mitigation and adequate adaptation measures. Under the business-as-usual scenario, the average global temperature rise will exceed over 3 degree C of warming by the end of the century from the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level.
The study, brought out by the non-for-profit organization ActionAid in partnership with the Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) and Bread for the World, is based on research undertaken by Bryan Jones, one of the authors of the inaugural Groundswell Report of the World Bank on internal climate migration in 2018.
The projected figures in the study show that climate migration will treble in South Asia, a region badly affected by climate disasters including floods, droughts, typhoons and cyclones. It estimated that the region in the past 10 years (between 2010 and 2020) witnessed climate-induced migration of 18 million people and this figure will go up to 37 million by 2030 and to 62 million by 2050 in a business-as-usual scenario.
“Rich countries need to take greater responsibility to reduce their emissions and support South Asian countries in cutting emissions and dealing with climate impacts. The human cost of inaction is too high,” said Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid.
The study also referred to the recent report by McKinsey Global Institute which noted that the slow-onset climate impacts could cause countries in South Asia to lose nearly 2% of their GDP by 2050 “without strong mitigation and adaptation measures”.
“South Asian leaders must join forces and prepare plans for the protection of displaced people. They must step up and invest in universal and effective social protection measures, resilience plans and green infrastructure to respond to the climate crisis and help those who have been forced to move,” said Sanjay Vashist, director, CANSA.