Volume of environmental migration
It is indisputable that the extent of ecologically unstable regions is growing year after year due to salinization, erosion, flooding and pollution, and desertification, that is, the expansion of deserts
Lack of a standard definition of the term "environmental refugee"
The wide range of different estimates leads back to a lack of clarity in definition
|Table 3: Selected Estimates and Projections on the Extent of Environmental Migration Worldwide|
|Source||Estimations on the number of "envrionmental refugees" at time of publication||Projections of the number of future "environmental refugees"|
|Source: Aufenvenne/Felgentreff .|
|Global Humanitarian Forum 2009: The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis. Geneva, pp. 48-49||26 million "climate refugees"||72 million "climate refugees" by 2030|
|Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) 2009: No Place Like Home. Where Next for Climate Refugees. London, p. 4||200 million "environmental refugees", which 150 million are "climate refugees" by 2050|
|United Nations University - Institute for Environment and Human Security 2007: Control, Adapt or Flee. How To Face Environmental Migration? Bonn, pp.15-18||10 million "environmental refugees"||50 million "environmental refugees" by 2010|
|Friends of the Earth 2007: A Citizen´s Guide to Climate Refugees. Amsterdam, p. 8||200 million "climate refugees" by 2050|
|Greenpeace 2007: Klimaflüchtlinge. Die verleugnete Katastrophe. Hamburg, pp. 1-2, 27||20 million "climate refugees"||150-200 million "climate refugees" in the course of the next 30 years|
|Nicholas Stern 2007: The Economics of Climate Change. The Stern Review. Cambridge, pp. 128-130||150-200 million "climate refugees" by 2050|
|Christian Aid 2007: Human Tide: The real Migration Crisis. London, p. 5-6||25 million "environmental refugees"||50 million "environmental" and 250 million "climate" regufees by 2050; plus a possible 645 million more people displaced by development projects like dams|
|United Nations 2005: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report. Washington.||20 million "environmental refugees"||50 million "environmental refugees" by 2050|
|United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) 2002: Environmental Migrants and Refugees. Refugees No.127. Geneva, p. 12||24 million "environmental refugees"|
|International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: World Disaster Report 2001, Focus on recovery. Geneva, p.11||25 million "environmental refugees"|
|WorldWatch Institute 1988: Environmental Refugees: A Yardstick of Habitability. Washington, p. 38||10 million "environmental refugees"|
|United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) 1985: Environmental Refugees. Nairobi, p. 8||30 million refugees, of which many are "environmental refugees"|
Climate changes take effect immediately where areas are threatened because of rising sea levels due to flooding or salinization
The rise in sea level leads not only to a loss in potential residential surface area, but also to a loss of farmland. This in turn has effects for food security. Many of the low-lying coastal regions of Asia are "granaries" of the world in so far as a large share of the global rice production is concentrated there, on which millions of people are directly or indirectly dependent. Estimates are that the rice supply of around 200 million people is immediately threatened by the rise in sea level.
Effects of environmental crises
Environmental crises usually worsen already precarious economic structures, so that the temporary or permanent emigration appears to offer an improvement in living conditions. They often also appear at the same time to be culture crises, and are often politically exploited or lead to political conflicts, which in turn causes migration. In regions where there is little political stability, weakly developed state problem-solving capacities, and economies prone to crisis and social unrest, environmental crises will only increase the vulnerability of the region. They could even act in this regard as a catalyst and initiate a collapse of an already unstable political, social and economic order. On the other hand, it can be that stable political, social and economic systems develop reaction patterns that raise expectations of a more or less conflict-free resolution of the effect of environmental crises
Yet looking at environmental migration also raises the question of potential migration destinations and with that also of the areas that could profit from climate change. The increased weight of environmental determinants in global migration is not expected to lead to trans- or intercontinental mass migration. The long history of avoiding famines and migration reactions to "failed states" makes it clear that due to limited resources of many of those affected, the reactions to climate and environmental change will especially influence the local and regional migration movements in areas of the world particularly at risk. According to estimates by the German government’s scientific advisory board, "Global Environmental Changes", the rich "North" will, as a main contributor to climate change, likely be affected little or not at all by migration in the "Global South" due to environmental changes because the largest part of these movements will remain on a small-scale or occur as "South-South migration".
Political and legal treatment of environmental migrants
Various aid organizations call for an extension of the Geneva Convention on Refugees and the recognition of the effects of climate change as grounds for protection. This request has thus far been rejected because the various overlapping motives those persons affected have for migrating make environmental causes almost impossible to determine. Moreover, the expansion of the right to asylum leads to the strengthening of restrictive asylum policies of some states that wish to limit immigration opportunities
This text is part of the policy brief on Interner Link: "Global Migration in the Future".