Study reveals: Dramatic increase expected in internal climate migration

Friday, October 13th, 2023 05:31 | By

Submerged Safari Lodge under rising water due to unusually heavy rains in Lake Baringo in August 2020. PHOTO/Print

Submerged Safari Lodge under rising water due to unusually heavy rains in Lake Baringo in August 2020. PHOTO/Print

Last year, hundreds of residents living around Lakes Bogoria and Baringo were compelled to relocate to nearby urban centres to evade losses associated with rising lake water levels.

For many, this marked an unfamiliar and distressing experience. Regrettably, some families never returned home out of fear.

Though some communities believe this was a one-off, a new report shows such migrations, often referred to as climate-induced migration, are going to increase in the next few decades not only in Kenya but across the African content.

“Africa will be worst impacted by extreme weather events, making some areas not hospitable. Because of the weather events, many people are being forced to migrate within own countries or regions in search of more hospitable and sustainable living conditions,” Sunita Narain from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said.

The State of Africa’s Environment Report 2023 by CSE, India-based think tank in Africa’s internal migrations because of climate change-related issues will go up to 40 per cent in sub-Saharan African countries by 2070.

“While the Global South will bear the maximum burden of internal migration, the reasons might vary from region to region, depending on various climate change-related issues like water scarcity or rising sea levels. However, water scarcity will be the main driving force of the total migration,” the report.

In June 2022, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDM) reported that in Africa, hundreds of thousands of people had been internally displaced due to climate change-related issues.

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Though it will be difficult to predict future migration patterns, according to the report, a warming world holds the key to unleashing the next wave of human migration, heading into the future. The reason is for over 6,000 years, humans have restricted their habitat settlements to an annual average temperature of -11 to 15ºC or climate niche.

But in a warming world, if emissions go unabated, this range could rise to 19 per cent of the Earth’s surface, affecting three billion of the projected nine billion people, by 2070. Currently, as of 2020 only 0.8 per cent of the world’s land surface experience annual temperature of more than 29°C or over.

But with global warming, 19 per cent of the earth’s surface is going to experience at least 29°C or more annual mean temperature by 2070, affecting three billion people and driving climate migration.

“In a warming world “climate suitability” would stretch to even the sparsely populated Arctic regions of the world. This expansion of the climate niche threshold could trigger the next wave of migration for people looking to locate to more temperate regions,” the report adds.

Speaking during the release of the report, Sunita Narain from CSE revealed that in Africa, the region stretching from Senegal in the West to Somalia in the East will be the hardest hit if emissions are not reduced.

Niger will also be affected and will be experiencing 238 days of temperature hovering over 35°C, followed by Mali which will be experiencing 231 days, and Sudan with 223 days.

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Tanzania and Uganda are also expected to see the highest number of internal climate migrants reaching 16.6 million and 12 million respectively according to another report by the World Bank.

“We are beginning to see increased migration because people are learning that they cannot cope with the impact of climate change-related issues as well as cannot sustain their livelihoods in their current locations. Natural disasters are also displacing communities temporarily or permanently,” she says.
According to her, many climate-induced migrants in Africa are moving to urban areas, leading to rapid urbanisation. This, in turn, is placing pressure on cities and their infrastructure, as they may not be adequately prepared for an influx of people.

Besides fueling migration, the report reveals that mid to long-term effects of climate change are also expected to drag down the Gross Domestic Product of most African nations by two to five per cent annually by 2030.

According to Mamo Boru Mamo, the National Environment Management Authority Director General, internal migration is being fuelled by the receding water points. According to him, water points are receding because of prolonged droughts, decreasing water tables, and shrinking of water bodies like rivers and lakes.

Boru adds that when water sources recede, communities that rely on them for drinking, agriculture, and other essential needs are compelled to migrate in search of areas with more reliable access to water resources where they can continue to meet their basic needs and secure a better future.


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