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Climate-fuelled disasters forcibly displace 20M people a year, Oxfam report says

WATCH ABOVE: More than 20 million people a year made refugees by climate disasters, Oxfam report says

A new report has found that as many as 20 million people are displaced by climate-fueled disasters every year — a figure that equates to one person being forced out of their homes every two seconds.

Oxfam’s Forced from Home briefing, published Monday, said that climate disasters have become the number one driver of internal displacement in the last decade, with people more than three times as likely to be forcibly displaced by it than war or conflict.

The report comes at a time of extreme weather conditions, with wildfires raging across Australia and California as well as floods and storms in Europe.

READ MORE: UN warns countries not to give up on climate fight as Madrid summit begins

Oxfam’s analysis indicates that poor countries, in particular, will be disproportionately affected by the displacement, despite bearing the least responsibility for global pollution.

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Developing small island nations like Dominica and Cuba comprise seven out of the 10 countries that face the highest risk of internal displacement caused by climate disasters, despite their per-capita emissions equating to about a third of those in high-income countries, according to the report.

Other people in lower-income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are also four times more likely to displaced by climate disasters than in richer countries such as the United States, the report said.

UN warns countries are failing to cut carbon emissions
UN warns countries are failing to cut carbon emissions

Close to 80 per cent of all people displaced in the last decade were from Asia, an area accounting for both 60 per cent of the world’s population and a third of all people living in “extreme poverty.”

Oxfam Great Britain’s Chief Executive, Danny Sriskandarajah, urged governments to come to grips with the climate crisis.

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“The poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price,” Sriskandarajah said in a press release.

“ Climate change is forcing people around the globe — hungry farmers in Guatemala, pastoralists in Ethiopia and those hit by cyclones in Asia or Southern Africa — to abandon their homes and face up to an uncertain future.”

The report was also released on the first day of the United Nations’ Madrid Climate Change Summit, where representatives from close to 200 countries have assembled in Spain to tackle climate issues and discuss strengthening the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

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On Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged countries not to give up on the fight against climate change. His speech outlined data indicating that heat-trapping gases have hit record levels not seen in the last 3 million years.

Global temperatures could rise to as much as twice the threshold that was previously set during the 2015 Paris accord by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions were not sharply cut, Guterres warned.

Political leaders at U.N. Climate Change Conference: ‘Choose hope over surrender’
Political leaders at U.N. Climate Change Conference: ‘Choose hope over surrender’

In July, the UN warned that climate crisis disasters were occurring at a rate of one per week.

Mami Mizutori, the UN’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, told The Guardian that even though catastrophic weather events made world headlines, large numbers of “lower impact events” were causing displacement, death and suffering at rates much faster than predicted.

Mizutori said that the cost of climate-related disasters were estimated at US$520 billion every year, whereas the cost of building global heat-resistant infrastructure would only be a total of US$2.7 trillion spread out over the next 20 years.

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Oxfam’s report, based on data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, condemned the “little progress” made by the international community in providing resources to help poor countries recover from climate emergency damage.

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“Governments can and must make Madrid matter,” said Sriskandarajah.

“They need to commit to faster, deeper emissions cuts and establish a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters.”

— With files from The Associated Press

Follow David Lao on Twitter

david.lao@globalnews.ca