Every day defenceless people are forcibly displaced due to climate change and conflict. The years 2021 and 2022 saw record breaking numbers of forcibly displaced individuals; according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 100 million people were forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter elsewhere or had to leave their country altogether. Forecasts do not seem to paint a favourable picture for the future, as these numbers are just the beginning.
According to Chapter 9 of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides a regional analysis for Africa, by 2030 about 700 million of the 1.4 billion people on the continent may be displaced due to water stress. As record breaking droughts ravage the continent, people will be undoubtedly forced to migrate to survive. In December 2021, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) sent out a warning that unparalleled droughts in the Horn of Africa were inevitable if the poor rainfall continued, which tragically turned out to be the case. Even though Africa’s role in worsening climate change is miniscule, as they only account for 2-3 per cent of global emissions, their continent suffers the heaviest impacts today, and they will be forced to leave their country in order to survive. The IPCC report states, ‘key development sectors have already experienced widespread loss and damage attributable to anthropogenic climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth’. Essentially, due to the effects of climate change, massive environmental, economic, and human life losses are already happening, which are bound to get worse if current trends continue.
As record breaking droughts ravage the continent, people will be undoubtedly forced to migrate to survive
On a global scale, a 2020 report from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) suggested that by 2050, over one billion people will be at the direct threat of displacement. The report ‘combines measures of resilience with the most comprehensive ecological data available, to shed light on the countries least likely to cope with extreme ecological shocks.’ The report states that Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa are the regions that are the most ill-equipped to deal with the ecological shocks. Unfortunately, these regions face the most ecological threats, such as heat waves or droughts. Ecological threats compounded by geopolitical events, such as the war in Ukraine, already demonstrate the dire future ahead. The global food shortage is hitting hardest in the aforementioned regions, which will inevitably lead to the displacement of people. Projections from the IEP also show that 5.4 billion people will live in countries experiencing high or extreme water stress by 2040, which is a significant increase from today’s 1.1 – 2.7 billion. Generally, it may seem that these issues will not have that sizable an impact on Europe or North America, as these regions are not only highly resilient to ecological threats, but they face fewer of them.
The European refugee crisis following the wars in Syria and Iraq in 2015 saw 2 million people flee to Europe
However, these highly resilient regions will most definitely not be unaffected by the wider impacts of ecological and geopolitical threats, such as refugees. The European refugee crisis following the wars in Syria and Iraq in 2015 saw 2 million people flee to Europe, which underlines the connection between rapid migration and political turbulence. So, where will all the people from Africa and the Middle East migrate to, when their land inevitably becomes unlivable due to the weather or war? Logically, the more resilient and affluent regions such as Europe, as seen 7 years ago. Hungary played a crucial role in the handling of the refugee wave back in 2015, with a certainly strong display of determination to keep the borders secure and safe. Many from the west criticised the decision to build a fence on the Serbian border, but it was a necessary step in order to keep the flow of refugees coordinated and ordered.
Provided that the refugees will once again try to enter Europe in the hopes of safer lives, Hungary may have to face a similar, yet unprecedented, situation to the ones in previous years. Even though Europe and North America are the most stable and resilient regions, they will be forced to deal with the ever-increasing threat of mass refugee movements in the not-so-distant future. Whether it is due to ecological or geopolitical reasons, or a combination of these, one thing is for certain: refugee waves will only get bigger in the coming years and therefore harder to manage than before.