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Uprooted by climate change

People in poorer countries five times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather
Uprooted by climate change

From 2008 to 2016, people in low and lower-middle income countries were five times more likely to be forced from their homes by ‘sudden-onset’ weather disasters, like floods and storms, than people in richer countries, according to Oxfam.

In Uprooted by Climate Change, Oxfam illustrates the ruthless inequality of climate change. Poor communities, whose greenhouse gas emissions are barely measurable, are at a much higher risk of displacement than those who are doing the most harm to the environment.

At least 23.5m people displaced in 2016

Data from 2008 to 2016 show that on average, extreme weather displaced 14 million people (0.42% of the population) low and lower-middle income countries, compared with approximately 1 million (0.08%) in high-income countries.

In total, 23.5 million people were newly displaced in 2016 by extreme weather. This total is likely an understatement because these numbers don’t account for ‘slow-onset’ disasters like drought and sea-level rise.

Oxfam’s report also describes how women, children and indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by climate change. For women, being displaced means higher risks of violence and makes it harder for them to get the help they need.

Facing up

While not all extreme weather events are linked to climate change, scientists are clear that global warming is increasing the risk of more frequent and intense weather related hazards.

This, combined with the growing number of people living in exposed areas and the underlying vulnerability of populations, is contributing to the rise in the number of people forced to leave their homes.

‘How many more once-in-a-lifetime storms will it take before our leaders face up to what’s going on and act? Climate change is eating away shores and flooding homes. It’s leaving farmland bone-dry, shattering the lives of millions who did virtually nothing to cause it. It’s unconscionable to leave poor communities alone to deal with disasters they did not create.’

Oxfam GB’s climate change policy and advocacy lead

Inspiring determination

The United Nation’s climate conference, COP 23, kicks off on Monday 06 November in Bonn, Germany. The conference will be chaired by Fiji: the first small island nation to chair the conference and a country on the front line of climate change.

Around 55,000 people in Fiji were displaced and one-fifth of the island’s gross domestic product was wiped out after Cyclone Winston in 2016.

‘Inaction has got us to this point, but it’s not too late yet to do what’s needed to save millions of lives. While it might sometimes seem like the odds are insurmountable, the brave determination of the Pacific communities inspires us all; it’s time for everyone to follow their lead and fight for our future.’

Oxfam GB’s climate change policy and advocacy lead

Uprooted by Climate Change shows how people on the front lines of climate change are dealing with the threat of displacement. For example, communities in Kiribati intend to do everything possible to remain on their islands, despite the rising seas and higher storm surges. For them, like so many other communities, relocation is a last resort.

Click here to view or download the Uprooted by Climate Change report.

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