Unchecked Climate Change, Mass Migration and Sustainability

Veerabhadran Ramanathan University of California, San Diego & Fonna Forman, University of California, San Diego
Session: January 18, 11:10-11:30AM

Climate migration describes the voluntary and forced movement of people within and across their habitats due to changes in climate. The very first report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in 1990 warned, “the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration.” Climate change can act as a causal factor of migration or as a threat multiplier. Migration due to climate change is bound to worsen in the coming decades. Even with full enforcement of the Paris agreement and all other sister agreements, the warming since the pre-industrial era will still increase from the current 10C by 50% to 1.50C within 15 years and by 100% to 20C within 35 years. Climate is already changing in perceptible ways through floods, droughts, fires, heat waves and sea level rise, early melting of snow packs and increased probability of severe droughts. Together these impacts decrease agriculture yields, increase mortalities and degradation of ecosystems displacing communities thus catalyzing migration and overcrowding of cities. Verifiable estimates are yet to be made, but reported estimates vary from 25 million to hundreds of millions climate change migrants by 2050. Slower, progressive factors such as gradual warming seems to have a stronger predictive effect on the likelihood of climate migration than acute events. We explore recent climate migration research and will advance a variety of methods best suited to understanding and measuring this complex phenomenon.