Blog 10.11.16

The Real Migrant Crisis


Photo: Flickr – Shever

The effects of climate change are felt by millions today, and experts believe refugee crises around the world will worsen in step with the symptoms of a warming planet.

It appears as if human conflict, like the civil war in Syria, is the driver of today’s mass refugee migration out of Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world. But what if I told you that over the next decade, the greatest driver of mass migration will be a changing climate?

Experts at several organizations like the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) believe that by 2050, 50 million to 200 million people could be displaced because of rising sea levels, stronger storms, increased flooding, harsher droughts, waning water supplies and other symptoms of climate change.

Forced migration is not just an impending crisis. It is happening today.

Military experts in the Pentagon call climate change a “threat multiplier” and warn of impending unrest like “water wars” as mismanagement of water resources and increasing water insecurity threaten the most fundamental resource to life on this planet.

Officials in the U.S. Department of Defense have drawn the same conclusion that Thomas Friedman wrote about when he looked over three maps of the same region in Africa.  The first map showed the most vulnerable regions of desertification in Africa in 2008.  The second shows conflicts and food riots in Africa from 2007-2008. The final one mapped terrorist attacks in Africa in 2012.  The destruction of people’s homes caused by climate change leads to global conflict and is a threat to everyone.

Climate change, then, is not just a matter of environmental degradation. It is a matter of security and of human rights. Company’s reporting on their approach to climate change would do well to make this linkage, and to demonstrate a complex understanding of a topic that will impact the totality of our  future – environmental, social and economic.

This trend shows no sign of slowing down without collective action. It will worsen in step with the changing climate.  It is the responsibility of all people, governments and companies to change destructive practices that lead to climate change and the global conflict it creates.


Greg Dietz is currently interning in our New York office. He is a creative individual and an experienced writer. Greg is currently completing his M.S. in Sustainability Management (SUMA) at Columbia University and is a founding board member of SUMA’s new Ambassador Program.  Before starting his master’s degree, Greg worked in environmental consulting after obtaining a degree in Geology from Lafayette College.

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