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The science of extremes:

Migration

Migration is caused by societal disruption and creates political vulnerability when people are displaced from their homelands. Migration away from dangerous areas or zones affected by climate variability, e.g., crop failure

Migrant people face eight basic risks as a result of displacement: Landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, food insecurity, increased risk of death and disease, loss of access to common resources (e.g., water, forests), social disintegration

Two aspects of climate can drive migration : Climate drivers: slow onset changes such as sea-level rise, salinization of agricultural land, desertification, growing water scarcity and food insecurity. Sea level rise patently makes certain coastal areas and small island states uninhabitable. Cumulatively they erode livelihoods and change the incentives to stick it out in a particular location. Some women in the Sahel, for example, already have to walk up to 25 kilometers a day to fetch water. If their journey gets longer, they will simply have to move permanently.Egypts Nile Delta is one of the most densely populated areas of the world and is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. A rise of just 1 meter would displace at least 6 million people and flood 4,500 km2 of farmland. Climate events: Sudden and dramatic hazards such as monsoon floods, glacial lake outburst floods, storms, hurricanes and typhoons. These force people off their land much more quickly and dramatically. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for example, which lashed the Gulf Coast of the United States in August and September 2005, left an estimated 2 million people homeless. (McLeman, 2005, quoted here.)

There is no clear evidence that trends in extreme weather events are systematically linked with trends in migration. But roughly 20 million people were displaced or evacuated in 2008 because of climate-related disasters, calculates the United Nations Office TOEXTREMES.ORG 1

for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
Specific examples of migration related to extreme weather events Floods in Mozambique: Floods displaced 200,000 people in 2001; 163,000 in 2007; and 102,000 in 2008 (Migration and Climate Change, 2009). Changing flood patterns in Mekong River Delta: The Delta region is highly productive in fish and rice, but seasonal flooding also causes major damage. Hurricane Katrina: Interaction between the hurricane, social vulnerability, race, and class contributed to the displacement of over 1 million people.

Migration also occurs in response to non-extreme events: Gradual climate change can also increase a populations vulnerability and exposure.
Drought and desertification in the Sahel: The Sahel region includes the Southern border areas of the Sahara desert, where human settlement is possible. Since the 1970s, persistent reduced rainfall (down 20% 30%), affected by El Nino/Southern Oscillation (a periodic climate pattern) has made the region drought prone (the most severe drought in the 1970s lead to deaths in the hundred thousands). Environmentally induced economic migration is occurring in Niger (West African Sahel), where people migrate due to loss of livelihoods, which are often associated with environment (farming, cattle herding). (Afifi 2010)

Temporary migration has become a form of climate adaptation: Household members leave to search for wage labour, and send home remittances (IOM 2009).

Migration due to desertification may affect 135 million people, 60 million of whom in the Sahel, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Horn of Africa Many of desertification's causes are human in nature but, as noted above, the problem can also be exacerbated by climate change. As severe weather events increase in frequency and severity due to global warming, degradation of dry lands tends to increase. Even worse, desertification and climate can form a 'feedback loop' with the loss of vegetation caused by desertification reducing carbon sinks and increasing emissions from biodegrading plants. The result is more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a continuation of the vicious cycle (World Resources Institute, 2007)

The legal status of climate migrants is murky

Forced climate migrants fall through the cracks of international refugee and immigration policy and there is considerable resistance to the idea of expanding the definition of political refugees to incorporate climate refugees. Meanwhile, large-scale migration is not taken into account in national adaptation strategies, which tend to see migration as a failure of adaptationThere is no home for climate migrants in the international community, literally and figuratively (Migration and Climate Change, 2009)

The role of environment is just now being formally recognized by migration experts and lawyers. Traditionally, literature investigating forced migration focuses on factors like hunger or war. Recently, the concept of environmental migrants or climate refugees questions if soil degradation or environmental hazards may contribute to forced migration, because deteriorating environmental conditions can force people to migrate to sustain themselves. (Afifi and Warner, 2008)

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