Two hundred and twenty seven million people worldwide--a number equal to roughly two-thirds of the entire U.S. population--were displaced by climate-related disasters between 2008 and 2016. Eighty-six percent of those were weather-related (floods, droughts, fires). The remaining were geophysical events, like earthquakes.
Many of these people moved within their own countries. But internal migration can contribute to larger crises; some analysts, including environmental scientists and military officials, say that climate change played a pivotal role in the current civil war in Syria. A record-breaking, three-year drought in Syria sent food prices soaring between 2006 and 2009, leading to internal displacement and civil unrest. These conditions in turn triggered a harsh government crackdown. In the years since the war began, violence in Syria has killed an estimated 400,000 and displaced half the remaining population, including 5.5 million refugees.
Are they climate refugees? Not exactly. But climate change is considered a "threat multiplier," aggravating other conditions like poverty and political instability in sending societies over the edge. And climate-related migration is likely to continue. Estimates vary, but rising seas are expected to displace some 2 billion people by 2100, including 4.2 million in the U.S.
To learn more about how climate affects immigration and international relations, check out Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security by Todd Miller, and take a look at Climate Change and National Security from CQ Researcher.
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