• 216 million people could be forced to migrate within their own countries by 2050 due to climate change, according to a new report from the World Bank.
  • These climate migration "hotspots" will emerge as soon as 2030 and worsen by 2050.
  • The poorest regions of the world will be most affected.
  • This information highlights the urgency of finding and acting on climate change solutions before it's too late.

Without immediate action to combat climate change, rising sea levels, water scarcity and declining crop productivity could force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050, the World Bank said in a new report on Monday.

The report, Groundswell 2.0, modeled the impacts of climate change on six regions, concluding that climate migration "hotspots" will emerge as soon as 2030 and intensify by 2050, hitting the poorest parts of the world hardest.

a chart showing how climate change could force people to migrate.
This is how climate change could force people to migrate.
Image: ODI UNDP

Sub-Saharan Africa alone would account for 86 million of the internal migrants, with 19 million more in North Africa, the report showed, while 40 million migrants were expected in South Asia and 49 million in East Asia and the Pacific.

Such movements will put significant stress on both sending and receiving areas, straining cities and urban centers and jeopardizing development gains, the report said.

For instance, sea-level rise threatens rice production, aquaculture and fisheries, which could create an out-migration hotspot in Vietnam's low-lying Mekong Delta. But the Red River Delta and central coast region, where those people are likely to flee, face their own threats, including severe storms.

Conflicts and health and economic crises such as those unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic could compound the situation, the bank said. And the number of climate migrants could be much higher since the report does not cover most high-income countries, countries in the Middle East and small island states, or migration to other countries.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

The report's authors say their findings should be seen as an urgent call to regional and national governments and the global community to act now to reduce greenhouse gases, close development gaps and restore ecosystems. Doing so, they said, could reduce that migration number by 80% to 44 million people.

"We're already locked into a certain amount of warming, so climate migration is a reality," said Kanta Kumari Rigaud, the bank's lead environment specialist and one of the report's co-authors. "We have to reduce or cut our greenhouse gases to meet the Paris target, because those climate impacts are going to escalate and increase the scale of climate migration."