Our Drowning Planet
On Earth Day, view our amazing photo gallery of climate refugees—people whose piece of the planet is disappearing.
Large-scale, climate change-induced human displacement may strike some people as an apocalyptic vision, a purely future-tense phenomenon. For climate-change deniers, it is a talking point of fear-mongers. But for millions of people around the globe who have lost their homes as a result of droughts, floods, and other climate-related natural disasters, the climate refugee crisis is very much a reality.
Click Below to View Photos of Gorgeous Landscapes Affected by the Climate Refugee Crisis
The Environmental Justice Foundation estimates that 26 million people have been displaced as a result of climate change. According to a September 2009 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, in 2008 alone some 20 million people were displaced due to "climate-related, sudden-onset" disasters. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2050 the number of environmental refugees will swell to 150 million.
The Maldives, a chain of 1,200 islands, is slowly sinking into the Indian Ocean. Its disappearance would displace 300,000 residents. Within the next 20 years, 20 million Bangladeshis, already accustomed to a steady stream of natural disasters, may have to relocate due to rising seas. The climate-change displacement crisis is not limited to developing nations or countries in tropical environs: Erosion resulting from thawing permafrost in Shismaref, Alaska, threatens to leave the town's 600 residents homeless, and rising sea levels could render the Halligen Islands in Germany inhospitable. For more regions threatened by climate change, read on.