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UNSW

Watch: Here's How Climate Change Is Causing Mass Migrations

FIONA MACDONALD
25 NOV 2015

Earlier this week, Prince Charles told the press that climate change was partly to blame for the Syrian conflict and resulting migration crisis, after prolonged drought pushed farmers into urban centres, increasing tension in the region. And, politics aside, from a scientific view he has a point. As the latest episode of Catastrophic Science explains, climate change is already causing mass migrations, and the problem is only going to get worse.

 

In fact, it's predicted that in the decades ahead, hundreds of millions of people will be forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find refuge from the effects of climate change.

So how does changing temperature and weather trigger such mass-scale migration? As explained in the video above, produced by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, it's not extreme temperatures that are the problem, it's the fact that climate change turns regular weather events and natural disasters into extreme ones.

For example, droughts, cyclones, hurricanes, storms, bushfires, and floods are all becoming more intense and more frequent as the climate changes. And that's not to mention the rise in sea levels.

To try to figure how to deal with this problem, UNSW researcher Johannes Luetz has travelled the world to meet climate migrants, and find out ways we can improve their lives. What he found was pretty shocking – there's the ski field that turned to dust, and a region in Bangladesh where up to 7km of land eroded along coasts and rivers, disappearing faster than the Google Earth satellite updates.

In the Maldives, an entire island was evacuated following storm surges, and 4.5 years later they still don't have a permanent home. The worst part is that there's no international legal framework to protect climate migrants.

So what can we do to fix the problem? Watch the episode above to find out how scientists and policy makers are working together to come up with solutions, including lifting islands right out of the ocean.

We won't give too much away, but one thing's for sure – climate change is going to affect all of us in the future, and we need to start doing something about it now.

UNSW Science is a sponsor of ScienceAlert. Find out more about their research.