China: In 2010, southwestern China suffered its worst drought in a century, followed by torrential summer rains. Flooding and landslides killed more than 700 people and displaced at least 15 million more. China is expected to have 22 million climate refugees by 2050.
Papua New Guinea: In 2007, the government of Papua New Guinea, along with the autonomous government of Bougainville, decided to resettle the 2,500 inhabitants of the Carteret atoll and neighboring atolls to the island of Bougainville. Some researchers believe the islands will be uninhabitable by 2015.
Thailand: In 2010, higher than average rainfall and inadequate drainage caused severe flooding that killed more than 200 people and displaced about one million. Monsoon floods from 2011 persisted in some areas until mid-January 2012, resulting in about 800 deaths and displacing 2.5 million people.
India: At least half a million people in northern India were left homeless in 2010 as the Ganges and other rivers, swollen by heavy monsoon rains, submerged villages and fields. The toll, however, was half that of 2009, when flooding displaced one million people. Some 37 million Indians will be vulnerable to sea level rise by 2050.
Pakistan: Heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan in July 2010 led to massive flooding in the Indus River basin that submerged 20 percent of the country. About 2,000 people perished in the disaster and an estimated 11 million people were displaced.
“Climate refugees” might be an alien concept for many people in Europe or North America, but it’s already a harsh reality in the Asia-Pacific region that includes six of the world’s 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change. Millions of people are displaced every year in the region due to floods, droughts, soil degradation, typhoons, and cyclones – and the numbers keep rising. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank says that during the past two years climate-related disasters have displaced more than 42 million people there.
Sources: Asian Development Bank; CNN, 11/10; The Guardian, 9/10; Associated Press, 10/11