One Billion Displaced by 2100, Scientists Warn Climate Negotiators

As the next round of U.N. climate talks opens in Cancun, Mexico, British climate scientists are warning that up to one billion people could be displaced by rising sea levels this century. The Guardian reports that if global temperatures cannot be halted from rising by 4 degrees Celsius, up to three billion will lose access to clean water supplies. Changes to sea level, crop yields, rainfall, and weather systems will cause massive displacement and could lead to “ghost states” of governments in exile and countries in diaspora.

Despite the dire scenarios, there is little optimism for real progress at the Conference of the Partners meeting (COP16), especially considering the disastrous Copenhagen talks of a year ago. The north/south divide is key to the lack of forward movement.  Activist Bill McKibben summed up the problem neatly: “a rich north that won’t give up its fossil-fuel addiction, a poor south that can’t give up its hope of fossil-fueled development.” The Guardian reports that leaders from the “south” are prepared to be vocal, if not strident, in their defense of  less developed nations’ rights, particularly those nations that may not exist if sea levels rise as many expect.

President Obama is not scheduled to attend the talks this year. Several activists, including McKibben, are suggesting it may be better if the US just gets out of the way rather than using its power to argue for weaker targets that will not make the goals.

Writing last week, McKibben wonders what it will take to spur leaders to work together. Given the events of the summer of 2010, “19 countries setting new heat records, Russia on fire, Pakistan underwater”  it’s hard to imagine what needs to occur before countries can unite and act for the long-term good of all.

Climate Refugees artwork; Photo by chientai of tatu; Creative Commons license


W. C
W. C9 days ago

Thanks for caring.

William C
William C9 days ago

Thank you for the article.

Lynn C.
Lynn C7 years ago

I think 2100 is a wee bit optimistic. My guess is that Mother Nature will have more than a little to say about this timetable.

Sundeep Shah
Sundeep Shah7 years ago

we are our own enemy

David N.
David N7 years ago

Interesting. Thanks for the article.

Sumit jamadar
Sumit jamadar7 years ago


Koo J.
greenplanet e7 years ago

Go solar and wind! Stop CO2 emissions.

Klaus P.
Klaus Peters7 years ago

We can see it coming, but we cannot agree how to stop it. Humans are so selfish, not me, let some one else fix the problem. In the end the ones who did nothing will scream the loudest.

Bette M.
Bette M7 years ago

Jason H.
Man is the devil!
Man is his own worst enemy.
A bit of fear within each of us would save us from ourselves.

Plant & protect Danny's Trees for life...
Trees are the lungs of the earth..................

Cindy B.
Cindy B7 years ago

Anybody who follows the news -- stuff HAPPENING NOW -- and can put 2 and 2 together has to know that there will certainly be billions displaced and horrendous mortality. Those displaced from the flooded lowlands won't hold a candle to the numbers displaced from parched, arid lands once the last glacier-fed rivers dry up. Even now these people have little or no potable water and are dying in droves from starvation and water-borne illnesses! And who will provide for these people? Where can they make homes for themselves? How can they possibly earn a living when even now, unemployment and insolvency is a scourge the world over? And we think we have problems now with deforestation and pollution?

When I was very young I remember watching and listening hard to everything around me, trying to make sense of it all. I remember thinking that if everything continued in the exact same trajectory it was going, then everything would eventually make a u-turn and people would go back to living in caves. I said this to many people and it always got a hearty laugh. Hmmmm. I wonder who'll be laughing way down the road?