In 2012, 31.752m people were displaced by climate and weather disasters, according to figures gathered by Norway’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
That’s around half the UK population – think of half your town or village being made homeless and desperately needing to find somewhere to go, and then multiply that by every town and village in the UK.
It’s pretty unthinkable, but that’s the reality.
Flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounted for 41% of global displacement in 2012. In India, monsoon floods displaced 6.9 million, and in Nigeria 6.1 million people were newly displaced. While over the past five years 81% of global displacement has occurred in Asia, in 2012 Africa had a record high for the region of 8.2 million people newly displaced, over four times more than in any of the previous four years.
The IDMC press release states that there is also increasing scientific evidence that climate change will become a factor. A 2012 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that there is some evidence to support the claim that “[d]isasters associated with climate extremes influence population mobility and relocation, affecting host and origin communities.”
Disaster-induced displacement takes a toll in both rich and poor countries. The USA appears among the top ten countries with the highest levels of new displacement, with over 900,000 people being forced to flee their homes in 2012. People in poorer countries, however, remain disproportionately affected and make up 98% of the global five year total.
Clare Spurrell, Chief Spokesperson for IDMC, said,
“In the US following Hurricane Sandy, most of those displaced were able to find refuge in adequate temporary shelter while displaced from their own homes. Compare this to communities in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands are still living in makeshift tents over three years after the 2010 earthquake mega-disaster, and you see a very different picture.
“In countries already facing the effects of conflict and food insecurity such as in Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Sudan, we observe a common theme. Here, vulnerability to disaster triggered by floods is frequently further compounded by hunger, poverty and violence; resulting in a ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors that lead to displacement.”
The IDMC Report focusses on the vast majority of people displaced by disasters who are internally displaced within their own country. The figures in the Report relate to people newly displaced in 2012 and don’t include those who are still displaced as a result of previous years’ disasters.
A smaller number of people have been displaced across borders, but this has not been quantified globally.