Why migration is a climate matter

A low-carbon future means less people will be forced to leave their homes to escape environmental disasters and climate-induced hardship.

Photo by Irene Barlian / Climate Visuals Countdown

Keeping people safe across the world

Slower impacts of climate change like sea level rise or indirect effects like the spread of disease (see health intersection) affect people’s ability to sustain their livelihoods in their towns or villages, forcing them migrate elsewhere. A low-carbon future means less people will be forced to go on arduous journeys to escape hardship caused by climate-induced natural disasters. Containing climate change helps protect those who are most at risk in humanitarian crises, in particular women, children and the elderly.


million people were displaced within their country after being hit by weather-related disasters in 2018.

More than 16,1 million people had to leave their homes in 2018 to seek shelter from weather-related disasters such as severe heat waves, storms and floods.1 If emissions continue to rise unabated, climate change and other environmental events could force further hundreds of millions of people to migrate on a temporary or permanent basis by 2050.2 An increase of these catastrophes could be prevented if we stop carbon pollution and keep the earth from warming further. Unmitigated, however, climate change will greatly exacerbate the migration crisis which is already killing scores of refugees every year. Climate-induced migration, even if people do not cross international borders, has enormously negative consequences on people’s lives and livelihoods. It also brings the tragic irony of making them even more vulnerable to further impacts of climate change. For example, built on flood plains provides inadequate protection from extreme weather events or sea level rise.

Scientists expect that at least 25 million and 1.5 billion people will be forced to migrate on a permanent or temporary basis by 2050 if carbon emission levels continue to rise unabated.3  As a philanthropist and social investor focussing on climate issues, you can, therefore, make a significant difference in reducing the causes of migration which bring hardship and suffering especially to the most vulnerable in many societies.

Apart from supporting efforts to decarbonize our societies to prevent climate-induced disasters, you can help boost the resilience of – and, in the worst case, provide disaster relief to – regions already affected by the climate crisis. Communities regularly hit by floods, storms or severe heat need support to alleviate hardship that will otherwise lead to migration. And, finally, migrants who have had to flee their homes in the wake of such events, will need shelter and assistance to be able to survive, settle and thrive in their new environments.

Funding Example

The Climate and Migration Coalition

The Climate and Migration Coalition is a network that aims to build awareness and capacities around the nexus of climate change and migration. It works to shift the discourse and the conversation how public and policy makers debate climate-linked migration. 

Issues Global Agreements, Population, Social Justice
Regions Globally
Lever Political Advocacy, Communication, Education, Networks