Extreme climate displaced more people in 2020

A youngster carries bananas as he wades near men sitting at a flooded street in El Progreso, department of Yoro, Honduras on Nov 18, 2020, after the passage of Hurricane Iota, now downgraded to Tropical Storm. (STR / AFP)

The number of new people forced to move within their own countries by climate disasters rose to the highest in at least a decade in 2020, more than three times those displaced due to conflict and violence.

The number of people who migrated domestically due to extreme weather events rose to 30.7 million, or 75 percent of those uprooted within their borders, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

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A record 55 million people in total had been forced to move at the end of 2020, with the number of climate migrants likely to be significantly underestimated due to incomplete data.

Climate change is causing more frequent and intense weather events. Contrary to fears of mass cross-border migration, many of the displacements are small-scale and localized, according to the report, costing economies about US$20.5 billion globally in 2020.

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Densely populated countries like India, the Philippines and Bangladesh were hit by intense cyclones, monsoon rains and floods, while 1.7 million people were displaced within the US during the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. These all-time high numbers were recorded even as the spread of coronavirus hampered humanitarian organizations’ ability to register and assist displaced people, the report said.