4 Things to Know About Climate Refugees

22 May 2022

People walking in water carrying bags with a sunset in front of them and trees on either side.

“The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are becoming increasingly serious and alarming.” -Pope Francis  

There is no internationally recognized definition of climate refugees. However, climate refugees are generally understood to be migrants who have been forced to leave their homes due to the sudden or gradual impacts of climate change. That said: there are some indisputable facts about how many people are being forced to leave their homes due to climate change. 

  1. 21.5 million people (on average) have been displaced by weather-related events annually since 2008. 
  2. By 2050, up to 250 million people will be displaced by climate change impacts. 
  3. Extreme weather events (floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts, heat waves, etc.) are displacing 41 people per minute. 
  4. Today, only 1% of the world is a barely livable hot zone, but by 2070 that number could be as high as 19% 

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Climate change [is] now found to be the key factor accelerating all other drivers of forced displacement.” A key example is Syria, where a 5-year drought preceded the civil war. Some experts assert that the devastation and scarcity of resources caused by the drought exacerbated socio-political tensions that led to the war. 

Both climate change and the welcoming of migrants are issues that the Holy Father has pointed to as central in our time. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis draws the link between them, noting that climate is causing people, especially the poor, to leave their homes. He writes that, “There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation,” calling all of us to take responsibility for our brothers and sisters who have experienced this loss. 

There is much we can do to heed the call – and much JRS is doing. Please consider supporting JRS today and accompany refugees around the world.