An average of 21.8 million people were forced from their homes each year between 2008 and 2016 by extreme weather disasters around the world – almost the population of Australia, according to Oxfam.
In the report “Uprooted by Climate Change,” published today, Oxfam illustrates the ruthless injustice of climate change. People in low and lower-middle income countries – who have contributed almost nothing to global climate pollution – are around five times more likely to be forced from their homes by sudden-onset extreme weather disasters, like floods and storms, than people in high-income countries.
Oxfam Australia’s climate change policy advisor Simon Bradshaw said the impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities was even more severe when accounting for drought, sea-level rise and other ‘slow-onset’ events.
“Climate change is increasing the destructive power of storms and floods,” Dr Bradshaw said. “The catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season and massive flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal are devastating reminders of what’s at stake. At the same time, rising seas, shifting rainfall patterns, more intense droughts and other impacts are eroding people’s land, natural resources and security.”
“For many, including Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal communities in Australia’s far north, and the Pacific atoll nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, climate change is a fight for survival.
“To be forced from one’s home, livelihood and ancestral land epitomises the immense human cost and injustice of climate change. However, much can be done to minimise the risk of displacement and ensure rights, protections and dignity for people who are forced to move.”
The United Nation’s climate conference, COP 23, kicks off on Monday, 6 November, in Bonn, Germany. The conference will be chaired by Fiji, the first small island nation to do so, and a country on the frontline of extreme weather disasters and the impacts of climate change. During Cyclone Winston in 2016, around 55,000 people in Fiji were forced from their homes and one-fifth of the island’s gross domestic product was wiped out.
“Pacific Island communities are leading the world in action on climate change; it’s time for Australia to follow their lead,” Dr Bradshaw said. “To meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement, including helping limit warming to 1.5°C, Australia must achieve zero emissions before 2040, say no to new coalmines – including Adani’s proposed Carmichael mega-mine – and increase support for climate change adaptation in developing countries.”
The report shows how people on the frontline of climate change are dealing with the threat of displacement. For example, communities in the Torres Strait Islands in Australia’s far north intend to do everything possible to remain on their islands, despite the rising seas and higher storm surges.
“When we talk about relocation, it’s very clear that this is an option of last resort,” said Hilda Mosby from Masig Island in the Torres Strait. “We want to try everything we can to keep our community here.”
While not all displacement from extreme weather disasters could be attributed to climate change, there is no question that without stronger action, increasing numbers of people will be forced from their homes.
Oxfam says COP23 must see countries, including Australia, recommit to the goals of the Paris Agreement. COP23 must help set the world on a path to limiting warming to 1.5°C. Rich countries also have a long way to go to meet their promises of finance for climate action in developing countries, and must show how they’ll get there. COP23 must also make progress on providing finance to address loss and damage from climate change.
“Inaction has gotten us to this point, but it’s not too late yet to do what’s needed to ensure a safe, just and dignified future for all,” said Dr Bradshaw. “While it might sometimes seem like the odds are insurmountable, the brave determination of so many of our Pacific neighbours inspires us all; it’s time for everyone to follow their lead and fight for our future.”
For interviews with report author Dr Simon Bradshaw, or more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow the link for photos of the people Simon met in the Torres Strait Islands whose home and communities are being damaged by rising sea levels: https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.au/?c=16590&k=0fc5fb76a6