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The new migrants

In 2020, over 50 million people were hit by climate-related disasters. Migrations caused by a changing climate are already happening and will increase rapidly if no climate action is taken.

Migration is a complex phenomenon involving not only climate change but also socio-economical factors, such as human conflicts.

Some people migrate voluntarily majorly driven by the search of better economic opportunities, but many other are involuntary migrants, being forced to leave their home as they are in danger due to war or a natural disaster.

New displacements in 2020

New displacements in 2020 New displacements in 2020

Source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Between 2010 and 2019, weather-related events caused the dispacement of 23.1 million people on average each year.

Source: State of the climate report by WMO

In 2020 the International Displacement Monitoring Centre detected 30 million new displacements caused by extreme weather.

Source: GRID 2021 Internal Displacement in a changing climate by IDMC

These migrants are now unofficially called “environmental migrants”. Climate projections indicate that if no climate action is taken the number of migrants will increase significantly due to extreme weather-related events.

Source: GRID 2021 Internal Displacement in a changing climate by IDMC

Now we will focus on heat stress, causing millions of displacements. Increasing heat stress will result on an increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related hazards, especially drought and storms.

Source: GRID 2021 Internal Displacement in a changing climate by IDMC

Currently, it is estimated that 1% of the planet is a barely habitable hot zone. By 2070, this figure could reach 19% and we could be facing a scenario of massive migratory movements around the world.

The data you will see on the map is the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI), a thermal comfort indicator based on human heat balance models, a way to measure heat stress by humans.

UTCI combines temperature, radiation, wind and humidity data.

Let’s see now how it will evolve worldwide from now until 2100.





Extreme temperatures, heatwaves and related extreme events have a strong impact on agriculture production, and consequently an effect on food security and poverty.

Huge migration fluxes from rural communities of Africa, Asia and South America have already started in response to food insecurity.

Let’s discover now a few key examples.

Subsaharan Africa

Food security conditions in drought-hit areas are alarming. In 2020, 4.3 million new people were displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa due to extreme events.

Source: GRID 2021 Internal Displacement in a changing climate by IDMC


By September 2020, the number of Somalis facing acute malnutrition tripled to 3.5 million compared to early 2020.

Source: State of the climate report by WMO


During 2020, 200,000 hectares of cropland were damaged, and over 356,000 tons of cereals were lost, leaving almost one million people suffering from food insecurity.

Source: State of the climate report by WMO

Madagascar / Senegal / Tanzania

In March 2021, reduced agricultural output caused by adverse weather events and Covid-19 restrictions led Madagascar, Senegal and Tanzania to request urgent humanitarian assistance.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)


In 2020, a total of 17.8 million people were displaced in China, Philippines, Bangladesh and India due to weather-related disasters.

Source: GRID 2021 Internal Displacement in a changing climate by IDMC

East Asia experienced during the last decade extremely hot summers with UTCI peaks up to 44.9°C during July. UTCI values for 2090 are expected to reach peaks of 51.7°C, far exceeding the threshold limit of 39°C that can be sustained by a human body.

Source: State of the climate report by WMO


It has been estimated that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change. Every day, between 1,000 and 2,000 people move to Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. Most of those arriving in Dhaka end up in the urban slums around the periphery.

Source: Environmental Climate Foundation

The Phillippines

In the Philippines, heat increase has a stronger impact on migrations than typhoons due to its damaging effect on crop yields. Each 1°C increase in the summer temperature results in a decrease of 6% in the annual rice yield, compared to an equivalent of 0.05% caused by typhoons.

Source: Bohra-Mishra et al. 2017

South America

In 2020, intense drought affected many countries in South America with Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil being the most impacted. Central America has also experienced the consequences of historic droughts.

Source: State of the climate report by WMO


Droughts and reduced rainfall caused agricultural losses of almost 3 billion dollars and major heatwaves reached peaks of 44.6°C, more than the human body can bear without consequences.

Source: State of the climate report by WMO

Central america: The Dry Corridor

In 2019, 8% of families in the Dry Corridor, many of which were small-scale farmers, planned to migrate in response to the difficult conditions.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Central america: The Dry Corridor

Drought and crop failure in the Central American Dry Corridor have been an important factor in the formation of the migrant caravans heading towards the US.

Source: Seguridad alimentaria y emigración

As the planet heats up, some parts of the world are becoming uninhabitable. People are forced to move not because they want to, but driven by their need to survive. The countries most responsible for the climate emergency are fortifying their borders to keep them out.

Wouldn’t it be a better and fairer solution to invest in helping people living in areas most affected by the climate emergency, caused mainly by rich countries, instead of building ever-higher walls?

Taking climate action and local preventive and adaptative actions can reduce the number of environmental migrants.

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1 Bohra-Mishra, Pratikshya & Oppenheimer, Michael & Cai, Ruohong & Feng, Shuaizhang & Licker, Rachel (2017): Climate variability and migration in the Philippines Population and Environment, DOI: 10.1007/s11111-016-0263-x.

2 FAO (2020): Crop Prospects and Food Situation - Quarterly Global Report In Crop Prospects and Food Situation #1, March 2020 (Issue December), DOI: 10.4060/ca8032en%0A.

3 World Meteorological Organisation. (2021): State of the Global Climate 2020 (Issue 1264). (Accessed June 2021)

4 IDMC. (2021): Global Report on Internal Displacement. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (Accessed June 2021)

4 WFP. (2017): Seguridad Alimentaria y emigración. Por qué la gente huye y el impacto que esto tiene en las familias que permanecen en El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras (Accessed June 2021)