Twenty-two million people were displaced by extreme weather events in 2013, three times more than the number displaced by war, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), as reported by Reuters. To put this in perspective, in the early 1970s the total number of people displaced by extreme weather events was only about 10 million.
Rising sea levels, as well as extreme weather and natural disasters such as heatwaves, floods and droughts linked to global warming are likely to force millions of people to move, with many never able to return.
With the effects of climate change expected only to grow in coming decades, governments should step up planning for migrants, Chaloka Beyani, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, told Reuters. This includes more planned relocations for people prone to frequent hazards.
"We don’t have to wait until an island sinks in maybe 50 years time and an entire population vanishes," Beyani said. "There will have to be a planned movement and relocation."
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Climate change also causes people to leave home by disrupting food and water supplies. "Access to resources, constrained by climatic factors, breeds conflict," Beyani said.
In late 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced it was now 95 percent confident that human influence is the dominant cause of global warming. The leading climate scientists from around the world said that as a result of past, present and expected future emissions of carbon dioxide, the effects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if carbon dioxide emissions stop.
Climate change is also taking its toll on global businesses, but those that plan accordingly are already seeing a payoff. A CDP analysis released late last year found that S&P 500 industry leaders that are actively managing and planning for climate-change are generating 18 percent higher return on equity (ROE) than peers and 67 percent higher than companies that do not disclose on climate change. The report tracked industry-leaders over the previous three years against their financial performance. The analysis revealed that those who lead on climate disclosure and performance have generated higher profitability.