Doha: Millions of people around the world may be forced to migrate as human caused climate change wreaks havoc on food supplies, the Al Attiyah Foundation has said in its latest Sustainability Report titled ‘Climate Change and Food Security.’ An estimated 216 million people could become climate migrants in the next three decades, moving within their own countries and abroad due to water scarcity, decreasing crop productivity and rising sea levels.
In the worst-case scenario, by 2050 Sub-Saharan Africa alone could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants; East Asia and the Pacific, 49 million; South Asia, 40 million; North Africa, 19 million; Latin America, 17 million; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 5 million.
A microcosm of this projected situation is already playing out in the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, a collective known as the “dry corridor.” Years of severe drought interspersed with tropical storms, Hurricanes Eta and Iota that struck within a fortnight of each other last year and other heavy precipitation events, have cut crop production or wiped-out entire harvests, forcing many to move to other parts of their country or enter the US as undocumented migrants.
A 2018 study by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) found that 47 percent of the families from the “dry corridor” who had recently migrated to the US were food insecure. Furthermore, some 72 percent of the families interviewed said they were applying “emergency” coping strategies such as selling their land, farm animals and tools to buy food.
Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say. And because agriculture employs much of the labor force – about 28 percent in Honduras alone, according to the World Bank – the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake.
“It’s becoming so unusual, it’s almost certainly climate change,” said Dr. Edwin J. Castellanos, one of Central America’s leading scientists in the field of climate change and the Dean of the Research Institute at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, a university in Guatemala City.
“Small farmers are already living in poverty; they’re already at the threshold of not being able to survive,” Castellanos said. “So, any changes in the situation may push them to have enough incentives to leave.”
Although the UN World Food Program plans to provide food assistance to more than 700,000 people across Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, the long-term outlook looks bleak for those who live off the land. A 2020 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the frequency, length and intensity of droughts in these countries will increase as temperatures continue to warm through the end of the century.