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New Expert Report Finds Climate Change is Driver of Migration

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The report titled “In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement” by Dr Koko Warner from UNU-EHS and Dr Charles Ehrhart from CARE International, highlights that climate change is already contributing to migration and displacement and that there will be tens of millions of migrants within the next few years. These findings were presented to the delegates and the international media at the Bonn Climate Change Talks in June 2009.

The new report is published by UNU-EHS, CARE International and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Bank, Social Dimension of Climate Change Team.

The new report is based in part on empirical evidence from a recently completed research project supported by the European Commission: Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios (EACH-FOR, Contract Number 044468, www.each-for.eu ).

At an official side-event on 2 June 2009, co-organised by UNU-EHS, the two authors, Dr Warner and Dr Ehrhart, shared their findings with the delegates. They underlined the importance for the issue of environmental migration to be included in the successive Kyoto Protocol.

Download the report In Search of Shelter .

Find the CARE International press release in English and German .

Official website of CARE International .

See the international press coverage here .

As research and the report highlight, the impacts of climate change are already causing migration and displacement. Author Dr Warner confirmed: “The choice the international community has at this point is not whether to act, but when to act.”

Dr Ehrhart further explained that people in least developed countries and island states would be affected first and worst by these changes. “The sad irony of the climate-induced migration issue is that those least responsible for climate change are the most affected,” he added.

The presentation was done in front of a large audience, including delegates in charge of the negotiations at the 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen (COP 15) where the environmental international treaty dealing with climate change, the next Kyoto Protocol, is produced.

The side-event was the last chance the partners had to present the topic of “environmentally induced migration” and get their message across to the delegates to be recognised in the international environmental negotiations this year.

UNU-EHS, CARE International and CIESIN also used the ongoing Bonn Climate Change Talks as an opportunity to introduce the report to the international media. At a second side-event on 10 June 2009, jointly organised by UNU-EHS and CARE, Dr Warner and Dr Ehrhart again stressed that in the light of increasing climate change, the international community must learn about effective adaptation.

In the past, the issue of environmental migration has been put aside by governments and institutions due to its complexity. The report provides information for decision-making. It offers a combination of empirical evidence, based on 23 case studies and interviews with 1,000 migrants and nearly as many non-migrants, with eight original maps and policy recommendations to clarify the subject. The report presents examples of people’s experiences with climate-induced displacement in particularly affected areas, ultimately giving the emerging issue a human face.