Climate change could force more than 143 million people into “climate migrants” escaping crop failure, water scarcity, and sea-level rise by 2050, a new World Bank report concludes.

The report, Groundswell – Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, is the first and most comprehensive study of its kind to focus on the nexus between slow-onset climate change impacts, internal migration patterns and, development in three developing regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.


Internal climate migrants are rapidly becoming the human face of climate change.

It finds that unless urgent climate and development action is taken globally and nationally, these three regions together could be dealing with tens of millions of internal climate migrants by 2050. These are people forced to move from increasingly non-viable areas of their countries due to growing problems like water scarcity, crop failure, sea-level rise and storm surges.

These “climate migrants” would be additional to the millions of people already moving within their countries for economic, social, political or other reasons, the report warns.

The study looked at three potential climate change and development scenarios, comparing the most “pessimistic” (high greenhouse gas emissions and unequal development paths), to “climate friendly” and “more inclusive development” scenarios in which climate and national development action increases in line with the challenge. Across each scenario, they applied demographic, socioeconomic and climate impact data at a 14-square kilometer grid-cell level to model likely shifts in population within countries.


By 2050—in just three regions—climate change could force more than 143 million people to move within their countries. 

This approach identified major “hotspots” of climate in- and out-migration – areas from which people are expected to move and urban, peri-urban and rural areas to which people will try to move to build new lives and livelihoods.

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