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Climate change could mean a billion refugees by 2050 - UNHCR

Tue 29 April 2008 | Back to news list

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warns that up to a billion people could lose their homes due to rising sea levels or be forced to move because of food or water shortages within 50 years as a result of climate change.

At an ippr-organised event also addressed by a Kenyan farmer and a UN worker based in Sudan, the High Commissioner was expected to say that climate change-induced food and water shortages in much of Africa and in central and southern Asia and South America could lead to hundreds of millions of refugees.

Rising sea levels could also lead to the displacement of  coastal communities in southern Asia, the Far East, the south Pacific islands and the Caribbean with many people seeing their homes submerged.

The Independent reported that The High Commissioner would say that North and west Africans could head towards Europe, while the southern border of the United States could come under renewed pressure from Central America.

Craig Johnstone, the UNHCR deputy high commissioner, said earlier that humanity faced a "global-scale emergency" whose effects would accumulate over the next four decades. He said it was impossible to forecast with confidence the numbers of people who would lose their homes through climate change. But he pointed to assessments of between 250 million and one billion people losing their homes by 2050. He said: "This will be a global-scale emergency, but ... it will take place gradually and over a long period of time."

Danny Sriskandarajah, head of migration at the ippr, said: "The displacement of millions of people will be one of the most dramatic ways in which climate change will affect humankind."

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