Climate change could force 1 billion from their homes by 2050

A A A

As many as one billion people could lose their homes by 2050 because of the devastating impact of global warming, scientists and political leaders will be warned today.

They will hear that the steady rise in temperatures across the planet could trigger mass migration on unprecedented levels.

Hundreds of millions could be forced to go on the move because of water shortages and crop failures in most of Africa, as well as in central and southern Asia and South America, the conference in London will be told. There could also be an effect on levels of starvation and on food prices as agriculture struggles to cope with growing demand in increasingly arid conditions.

Rising sea levels could also cause havoc, with coastal communities in southern Asia, the Far East, the south Pacific islands and the Caribbean seeing their homes submerged.

North and west Africans could head towards Europe, while the southern border of the United States could come under renewed pressure from Central America.

The conference will hear a warning from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the developed world should start preparing for a huge movement of people caused by climate change.

The event, which is being organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), will also be addressed by a Kenyan farmer and a United Nations worker based in Sudan. They will give first-hand accounts of previously fertile land that has already become parched in recent years as the desert spreads.

Craig Johnstone, the UNHCR deputy high commissioner, said yesterday 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."

Mr Johnstone rejected the suggestion that the industrialised West should shoulder the burden because it was to blame for much of climate change. But he said: "It's the obligation of the people who have the means to be helpful to help. They have an obligation to humanity to help."

He said the UNHCR already assisted in natural disasters such as earthquakes and the Asian tsunami of 2004 and added: "Perhaps even more challenging and more inevitable are the consequences of global changes."

Currently the status of refugees – defined as people escaping personal persecution by the state – is controlled by the Geneva Convention of 1951. The agreement, however, would not cover people who become homeless, or even stateless, because of changes to global weather patterns.

Pressure is therefore growing for the international community to reach a formal consensus on ways of dealing with the issue. Mr Johnstone said: "We're strongly in favour of there being adequate international mechanisms to cope."

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."

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said a global agreement must be reached. "Climate change is the most serious long-term threat to development in poor countries, and if unchecked millions of people may be forced to migrate to escape the effects of drought, flooding, food shortages and rising sea levels," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?