Boris Johnson: COP26 a ‘decisive shift’ in climate change battle
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As the global climate crisis worsens, an increasing number of people are being forced to leave their homes in search of lands with cooler climes and less extreme weather. Droughts, monsoons, hurricanes and floods, among other weather events, have all increased in certain regions of the planet in recent decades, and are already causing an average of more than 20 million people to leave their homes. The people that move away from these circumstances are often called “climate refugees”, but as yet, there is no official status afforded to them like refugees of war.
They are not the only ones being affected by climate change: people the world over are experiencing shifts in their lives and the environments in which they live as a result of a warming planet.
But, as Erol Yayboke, Director and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) notes, climate change is affecting those already most vulnerable significantly more.
He told Express.co.uk: “It’s not just the volume of people, it’s the types of people who are going to be affected.
“When you think about Bangladeshis, there’s a small middle and upper-class in Dhaka (the capital).
“Sure, they’re being affected by climate change because it’s raining more, it’s drier for longer, it’s hotter, it’s colder, however, they have the means to deal with it.
“If flooding a poor farmer is used to goes consistently above and beyond those levels, if their houses on stilts used to get swept away once every 20 years but are now getting swept away once every two or three years, that quickly becomes an unsustainable life for that person”
“That person doesn’t necessarily have the means or the social safety net to be able to survive where they are.
“What ends up happening is those people move primarily internally from wherever they were to somewhere that is more sustainable, usually a city, where life is going to be very hard.
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“They’re going to live in an informal settlement or a slum, but they’re at least going to have access to jobs, to hopefully have some sort of existence where they’re not going to have to deal with those climate impacts.”
Bangladesh is perhaps the most salient example of the effects climate change can have on human populations, and is a region researchers consistently refer to.
The country’s low elevation, high population density and inadequate infrastructure, and an economy heavily reliant on farming, all put it on a collision course for disaster.
Bangladeshis have historically used migration as a coping strategy in the face of extreme weather.
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But as conditions intensify, more people are being driven from their homes at a faster rate.
Estimates suggest that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change.
At least 18 million may have to move because of sea level rise alone as two-thirds of the country is less than five metres above sea level.
The Bay of Bengal, on which the country sits, has been described as the world’s hotbed of tropical cyclones.
In the period 1974-99, a total of 202 storms and depressions formed in the bay, 90 of which intensified into cyclonic stages.
Bangladesh is not alone: its eastern neighbour, Myanmar, saw 140,000 people die when Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta in May 2008, displacing two million people in the process.
This is just one example of a number of storms and cyclones that have killed and displaced people in the region in decades past.
While the future seems bleak, many, including Mr Yayboke, are hopeful that technology will match and surpass the pace of climate change, and help curb the number of those forced to leave their homes.
He gave the example of the Gulf, where many millions of people live day-to-day in temperatures that can exceed 50°C.
Here, humans have adapted to extreme weather by using things like air conditioning units, turning what should be scorching interiors into cool paradises.
However, this luxury is afforded only to those who have the money, with many millions of migrant workers in countries like Saudi Arabia forced to live in cramped, overcrowded and sweltering conditions.
As this is one of the biggest challenges of our time, Mr Yayboke says wealthier countries must “step up” their efforts to help their poorer neighbours most at risk from climate change given that the effects will, eventually, reach us all.
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