Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

In brief: Climate-related disasters force 20 million out of homes in 2008

24/09/2009 - by IRIN

Climate related natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and floods forced 20 million people - slightly less than the population of Australia - out of their homes in 2008 alone said a new study, making a strong case for regularly monitoring displacement in the context of climate change.

A total of 36 million people were displaced worldwide by sudden-onset natural disasters, including earthquakes and landslides. During the same period 4.6 million people were internally displaced by conflicts.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre jointly conducted the study, Monitoring Disaster Displacement in the Context of Climate Change.

"Had it not been for the Sichuan earthquake in China, which displaced 15 million people, climate related disasters would have been responsible for over 90 percent of disaster related displacement in 2008," the study commented.

Using the 2008 data as a test case, the study proposed the ongoing monitoring of disaster related displacement using existing information, such as the Emergency Events Database produced by the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, cross-referenced with various other sources, and individually investigating events to estimate the numbers of persons displaced.

The next step is further research into displacement caused by slow-onset disasters and sea level rise. The study also called for a legal framework to protect people forced to cross a border by a natural disaster.