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LAW MANTRA THINK BEYOND OTHERS

(National Monthly Journal, I.S.S.N 23216417)





Protection of Environment: Emerging Issues Climate Change Tending to Forced
Migration


Introduction:
The consequences of climate change on migration present humanity with an unprecedented
challenge. The numbers of storms, droughts and floods have increased threefold over the last
30 years with devastating effects on vulnerable communities, particularly in the developing
world. In 2008, 20 million persons have been displaced by extreme weather events, compared
to 4.6 million internally displaced by conflict and violence over the same period. How many
people will be affected by climate change by 2050? Forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion
people with a figure of 200 million being the most widely cited estimate. Extreme
environmental events such as cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and tornadoes tend to capture the
media headlines, but it is gradual changes in the environment that are likely to have a much
greater impact on the movement people in the future.
The report, which is based on latest UN population and climate change figures, says conflict,
large-scale development projects and widespread environmental deterioration will combine to
make life unsupportable for hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the Sahara belt, south
Asia and the Middle East. By 2050, twice as many people could be displaced by conflict and
natural disasters, but 250 million could be permanently displaced by climate change-related
phenomena such as droughts, floods and hurricanes, and 645 million by dams and other
development projects, based on a current rate of 15 million people a year. "The growing
number of disasters and conflicts linked to future climate change will push the numbers far
higher unless urgent action is taken.
Environmental migrant refers to people who are forced to migrate from or flee their home
region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment which compromise their
well being or secure livelihood, such changes are held to include increased droughts,
desertification, sea level rise, and disruption of seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons.
Environmental migrants may flee to or migrate to another country or they may migrate


internally within their own country. However, the term 'environmental migrant' is used
somewhat interchangeably with a range of similar terms, such as 'environmental refugee',
'climate refugee', 'climate migrant', although the distinction between these terms is contested.
Despite problems in formulating a uniform and clear-cut definition of 'environmental
migration', such a concept has increased as an issue of concern in the 2000s as policy-makers,
environmental and social scientists attempt to conceptualise the potential societal effects of
climate change and general environmental degradation.
Relation between Climate Change and Forced Migration
Large numbers of people are moving as a result of environmental degradation that has
increased dramatically in recent years. The number of such migrants could rise substantially
as larger areas of the earth become uninhabitable as a result of climate change. - (IOM,
1992)
The relationship between migration, environment and climate change is a complex one. There
are complex linkages between climate change and human mobility. Moreover, major global
trends such as population increase, urbanization, environmental and climate change, increasing
poverty and political repression all accentuate vulnerability, the likelihood of crises developing
and thus the propensity for forced migration.
In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single
impact of climate change could be on human migrationwith millions of people displaced by
shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural degradation. But with so many other social,
economic and environmental factors at work, establishing a linear, causative relationship
between anthropogenic climate change and forced migration has, to date, been difficult.
Predicting future flows of climate migrants is complex; stymied by a lack of baseline data,
distorted by population growth and reliant on the evolution of climate change as well as the
quantity of future emissions.
Environmental factors have long had an impact on global migration flows, as people have
historically left places with harsh or deteriorating conditions. However, the scale of such
flows, both internal and cross-border, is expected to rise as a result of accelerated climate
change, with unprecedented impacts on lives and livelihoods. Such migration can have
positive and negative effects on both the local coping capacity and the environment in areas
from which these migrants originate, as well as in their temporary or permanent destinations.



Migration, climate change and the environment are interrelated. Just as environmental
degradation and disasters can cause migration, movement of people can also entail significant
effects on surrounding ecosystems. This complex nexus needs to be addressed in a holistic
manner, taking into account other possible mediating factors including, inter alia, human
security, human and economic development, livelihood strategies and conflict. Migration often
seems to be misperceived as a failure to adapt to a changing environment. Instead, migration
can also be an adaptation strategy to climate and environmental change and is an essential
component of the socio-environmental interactions that needs to be managed. Migration can
be a coping mechanism and survival strategy for those who move. At the same time, migration,
and mass migration in particular, can also have significant environmental repercussions for
areas of origin, areas of destination, and the migratory routes in between and contribute to
further environmental degradation.

Causes of Climate Change Leading To Forced Migration
Five groups of factors can be singled out as environmental push elements that might lead to
migration
1
:
1. Natural disasters
2. Development projects that involve changes in the environment
3. Progressive evolution of the environment
4. Industrial accidents, and
5. Environmental consequences due to conflicts
Three consequences of climate warming, as forecast in the latest report of the IPCC for the end
of the 21st century, appear to be the most threatening potential causes of migrations
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007b):
The increase in the strength of tropical hurricanes and the frequency of heavy rains and
flooding, due to the rise in evaporation with increased temperatures.
The growth in the number of droughts, with evaporation contributing to a decrease in soil
humidity, often associated with food shortages.

1
Lonergan notes, 1998


The increase in sea levels resulting from both water expansion and melting ice.
While the first two consequences are the direct result of sudden natural disasters, the third is a
long-term process, which, as we will see, has very different possible implications in terms of
migrations. We leave aside other effects of global warming on health or the viability of certain
economic activities that may have additional consequences for migrations but which remain
subject to speculation.
Hurricanes, torrential rains and floods
The impact of hurricanes and floods on population displacement is among the easiest to
identify, as they manifest themselves in a brutal and direct manner. Particularly well
publicised, the flooding due to Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005, necessitated the evacuation
of hundreds of thousands inhabitants of New Orleans while tens of thousands of others,
primarily Afro-Americans, remained trapped in the city due to a lack of transport amenities
(Cresswell 2006). While we know approximately the number of persons affected by flooding
worldwide (106 million, on average, between 2000 and 2005 according to the International
Disaster Database), and by hurricanes (38 million), the total number of people threatened by an
eventual increase of this kind of disaster is, however, very difficult to estimate. No climate
model is able to predict with accuracy whether or not the affected zones will be densely
populated and whether the damage will have tragic consequences.
Drought and desertification
In the recent past, the number of persons affected by drought has been comparable to that of
victims of hurricanes and floods, 146 million, on average, between 2000 and 2005 according to
the EM-DAT. The latest report of the IPCC predicts increased water shortages in Africa, 74 to
250 million people affected in 2020 and Asia: "Freshwater availability in Central, South, East
and Southeast Asia particularly in large river basins is projected to decrease due to climate
change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher
standards of living, could adversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s."
Rising sea levels
Contrarily to hurricanes, rains and droughts, this phenomenon is virtually irreversible and
manifests itself over a long period of time. This could make migration the only possible option
for the population affected. The localization of the consequences of rising sea levels is a
relatively easy task because the configuration of coastlines, their altitude and population are


well known and thus easy to integrate into geographical information systems (GIS) that permit
simulations and forecasts. Hence, it is possible to calculate, on a global scale, the number of
persons living in low elevation coastal zones and threatened by either rising water levels,
higher tides or further-reaching waves.
Alongside disasters resulting from cyclones and earthquakes, evidence increasingly links
changes in climate manifest in greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,
rising sea levels and desertification to migration. Countries such as Bangladesh and Viet
Nam are especially prone to displacement resulting from rising sea levels, whilst sub- Saharan
Africa will experience increasing desertification, rendering pastoral livelihoods no longer
sustainable and migration inevitable. The increasing occurrence of severe floods and
desertification may potentially push large numbers of people out of affected areas. The links
between climate change and migration, however, are complicated and still poorly understood.
Such changes are rarely unique drivers of population displacement. They are one significant
determinant, in conjunction with economic, social and political factors, and usually linked to
existing vulnerabilities.
Compounding this, climate change is predicted to worsen a variety of health problems leading
to more widespread malnutrition and diarrhoeal diseases, and altered distribution of some
vectors of disease transmission such as the malarial mosquito. Meanwhile, melting glaciers
will increase the risk of flooding during the wet season and reduce dry-season water supplies to
one-sixth of the worlds population, predominantly in the Indian sub-continent, parts of China
and the Andes. Melting glaciers will increase the risk of glacial lake outburst floods
particularly in mountainous countries like Nepal, Peru and Bhutan.
Global average sea level, after accounting for coastal land uplift and subsidence, is projected to
rise between 8 cm and 13 cm by 2030, between 17 cm and 29 cm by 2050, and between 35 cm
and 82 cm by 2100 (depending on the model and scenario used). Large delta systems are at
particular risk of flooding. The area of coastal wetlands is projected to decrease as a result of
sea level rise. For a high emissions scenario and high climate sensitivity wetland loss could be
as high as 25 per cent and 42 per cent of the worlds existing coastal wetlands by the 2050s and
2100s respectively. According to Nicholls and Lowe (2004), using a mid-range climate
sensitivity projection, the number of people flooded per year is expected to increase by
between 10 and 25 million per year by the 2050s and between 40 and 140 million per year by
2100s, depending on the future emissions scenario. The avalanche of statistics above translates
into a simple factthat on current trends the carrying capacity of large parts of the world,


i.e. the ability of different ecosystems to provide food, water and shelter for human
populations, will be compromised by climate change.
Climate events, on the other hand, are sudden and dramatic hazards such as monsoon floods,
glacial lake outburst floods, storms, hurricanes and typhoons. These force people off their land
much more quickly and dramatically. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for example, which lashed
the Gulf Coast of the United States in August and September 2005 left an estimated 2 million
people homeless. The 2000 World Disasters Report estimated that 256 million people were
affected by disasters (both weather-related and geo-physical) in the year 2000, up from an
average of 211 million per year during the 1990s an increase the Red Cross attributes to
increased hydro-meteorological events.

Impacts of Climate Change In Different Ways
The International Organisation for Migration proposes three types of environmental migrants:
Environmental emergency migrants: people who flee temporarily due to an environmental
disaster or sudden environmental event. (Examples: someone forced to leave due to hurricane,
tsunami, earthquake, etc.)
Environmental forced migrants: people who have to leave due to deteriorating
environmental conditions. (Example: someone forced to leave due to a slow deterioration of
their environment such as deforestation, coastal deterioration, etc.)
Environmental motivated migrants also known as environmentally induced economic
migrants: people who choose to leave to avoid possible future problems. (Example: someone
who leaves due to declining crop productivity caused by desertification)
Climate change will significantly affect migration in three distinct ways. First, the effects of
warming and drying in some regions will reduce agriculture potentials and undermine
ecosystem services such as clean water and fertile soil. Second, the increase in extreme
weather events-in particular, heavy precipitation and resulting flash or river floods in tropical
regions. Finally, sea level rise will permanently destroy extensive and highly productive low-
laying coastal areas that are home to millions of people who will have to relocate
permanently.14 In addition to this, in many countries, one cumulative impact of climate change
will be to increase the potential for violent conflict. More recently, people, including the UN
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon have started arguing that the Darfur conflict that caused


massive scale of displacement began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate
change.
In this relation the Fourth Assessment Report of IPCC (IPCC AR4), published in 2007,
outlines climate change impacts in six main areas: ecosystem; food; water; health; coasts; and
industry, settlement and society. The IPCC Assessment Reports also recognize that the
developing countries and the poorest people will suffer the most from climate change because
of unfavourable geography, limited assets, and a greater dependence on climate-sensitive
sources of income. Some of the impacts could be in the form of new challenges and others
could emerge as old threats made more severe by climate change.
Climate Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) need new legal recognition
Rights of the IDPs are said to be protected by their own governments as per international
humanitarian law as articulated in the Guiding Principles of Internally Displacement. The
normative framework for people displaced either by the degradation of ecosystems; loss of
habitat, natural disaster and development projects, and remains inside their country is well
defined although their rights are found poorly protected in many cases. When people find
themselves on the other side of an international border, then international obligation of the host
country may come in to play, if there exist. But people cannot cross the border given the cause
that theyre forced to leave their habitat due to impact of climate change, theyre unable to
make livings inside the country as agricultural productions dropped drastically due to climate
variability or saying that their habitat disappeared permanently into the sea unless there are any
conventional rights.
Legal Perspective for Environmental Migrants
It is surprising that a framework to protect the rights of people forced to move because of
climate-induced environmental change does not exist. For instance the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees -UNHCRs mandate is to lead and co-ordinate international action
to protect refugees and resolve problem worldwide. Its responsibility includes supervising, in
co-operation with States, the application of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees. As defined in the Convention, refugees are persons who are outside their countries
of origin because of a well founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion,
nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who cannot or do
not want to return home. The mandate of the UN Refugee Convention does neither cover nor
comply the core characteristics of the climate change induced migrants crisis.


In contrary, climate change-induced forced migration would undermine many other UN
conventions. For instance
Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
protects freedom of movements and other social, cultural and economic rights which might be
threatened when people are forced to migrate by climate-induced environmental degradation.
Right to Adequate Housing: The right to adequate housing is enshrined in several core
international Human Rights instruments and most comprehensively under the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as an element of the to an adequate
standard of living. The right to adequate housing has been defined as the right to live
somewhere in security, peace and dignity; Core elements of the rights include security of
tenure, protection against forced evictions, availability of services, materials, facilities and
infrastructure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy.
The Right to Self Determination: The right to self determination is a fundamental principle of
international law. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes that all peoples have the right
of self-determination by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely
pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Recommendations and Conclusions
More efforts are needed to identify, test and implement new programmes, policies, frameworks
to manage future movements of people linked to environmental and climate change. The
capacities of governments to implement existing ones need to be enhanced. Migration can be
among several adaptation strategies as exemplified in several National Adaptation Programmes
of Action (NAPAs). Certain new set of recommendations for better formulation and
implementations of is needed to be laid down considering all circumstances. The pain and
suffering of leaving some place permanently could only be imagined and facing new problems
in order to settle and carry on works to earn livelihood is very much. So, it should be each and
every ones responsibility to work on in order to control the increasing rate of environmental
change.

By:- Shrawani Shagun, I.C.F.A.I University, Dehradun, and Aseem Chandra Paliwal,
Research Scholar, Dehradun