Disaster displacement

Photo credits: OCHA/Iason Athanasiadis

Disasters can have devastating consequences on displacement. Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes due to floods, tropical storms, and droughts – events that are increasing in frequency as a result of climate change.

Weather-related risks are not the sole drives of disaster displacement, however: natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic activity also cause widespread displacement. Vulnerable people living in some of the most fragile countries are disproportionately affected. Most of those leaving their homes are forced to find refuge within their own country – meaning that internally displaced people are often on the frontlines of climate change.

The impacts of climate change are numerous and can hamper return for those who have already been displaced. Limited natural resources, such as drinking water, are becoming scarce in parts of the world that host displaced people. Crops and livestock struggle to survive where conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet, threatening livelihoods. In such conditions, climate change can act as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing tensions and adding to the potential for conflict.

The most recent IPCC report noted that that climate change has been proven to increase the frequency and intensity of sudden onset events, such as storms, floods, wildfires, etc., which threatens to make disaster displacement one of the growing threats to communities in many parts of the world.

Many countries are affected by both conflict and the impacts of climate change and disasters. In 2020, 37 countries and territories with new internal displacement associated with conflict or violence also experienced new internal displacement due to disasters.