Science commentary: Addressing the human cost of displacement in a changing climate

23/06/2021 - In a policy forum contribution just published in a special edition of the renowned journal Science, Jacob Schewe, co-lead of PIK´s FutureLab “Security, Ethnic Conflicts and Migration” and colleagues from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), ETH Zürich and IIASA Vienna discuss the hidden economic impacts of disaster- and climate-related displacement. They argue for locally led displacement risk assessments that account for the potential economic cost of displacement to guide decision making.
Science commentary: Addressing the human cost of displacement in a changing climate
Science cover, used with permission from AAAS.

Disasters induced or strenghtened by climate change, like droughts, floods or uncontrollable wildfires, cause people to leave their homes all the time. For each additional degree in average global temperatures, there is a 50 per cent increase of displacement risks due to floods alone. Scientists are only beginning to assess displacements triggered by other impacts of climate change, such as coastal erosions, changing weather patterns or worsening living conditions for vulnerable communities in general. Something that has not been quantified is the human cost of disaster displacement, now and in the future. The highest economic impacts usually stem from the loss of income and the need to provide displaced people with shelter and healthcare. While many countries have begun to plan for the risk of extreme events in one way or the other, most governments do not account for displacement risks and their associated costs in national development plans and annual budgets, although impacts can add up to billions of dollars worldwide. In their commentary, the team of scientists led by IDMC´s Bina Desai calls for more comprehensive risk assessments, investments in disaster risk reduction and lasting solutions for people who have lost their homes or land.

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