A very large share of the world’s population still lives basically rural lives, and essentially depends on agricultural production for its well-being. And agriculturalists, particularly practitioners of low-tech agriculture, a highly dependent on the weather for their fortunes. Patterns of human settlement and land ownership are thus heavily shaped by expectations about the climate. When the climate shifts, that’s extremely disruptive. The historical and archeological records are full of examples of wrenching changes forced by past instances of climate change. But those fluctuations have always taken place on a much longer, slower time frame than the current era of climate change induced by human industrial activity. That makes the change all the more wrenching:
Natural calamities have plagued humanity for generations. But with the prospect of worsening climate conditions over the next few decades, experts on migration say tens of millions more people in the developing world could be on the move because of disasters.
Rather than seeking a new life elsewhere in a mass international “climate migration,” as some analysts had once predicted, many of these migrants are now expected to move to nearby megacities in their own countries.
“Environmental refugees have lost everything,” said Rabab Fatima, the South Asia representative of the International Organization for Migration. “They don’t have the money to make a big move. They move to the next village, the next town and eventually to a city.”
Part of the solution should be better migration policies by the developed world. And part of the solution needs to be action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.