On September 1 a foot of rain fell in the Burkina Faso capital city of Ouagadougou in just 10 hours. The intense rain and flooding has displaced over 150,000, highlighting the growing issue of climate change refugees.
According to Cana.net, approximately 25 million people can currently be classified as environmental refugees- that’s 58% of the world refugee population. While not all of them are climate change refugees, that number is still higher than those displaced by war. And increasing environmental disasters due to climate change will increase both displacement and the percentage of environmental refugees.
Burkina Faso is a recent example of the growing climate change refugee tally. The West African country lies south of Mali and north of the coast and while the country’s weather has always been divided between rainy and dry seasons, recent rains were the worst in decades- the September 1 rains were the worst since 1919.
In her paper this summer about migration and climate change in a context of high mobility (in collaboration with UN-HABITAT and the Population Division, UN/DESA), Cecilia Tacoli of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) cites an estimate that by 2050 there will be over 200 million people forced to move primarily because of climate change. She continues by observing that “it is likely that both extreme weather events (storms, floods, heat waves) and changes in mean temperatures, precipitation and sea-levels will in many cases contribute to increasing levels of mobility.”
African leaders are meeting nearby the newly formed refugee camp to finalize their joint position for the UN’s upcoming COP15- they will be asking for billions of dollars in compensation from industrialized countries like the U.S.