Climate change is now adding new layers of complexity to the nexus between migration and the environment. Coastal populations are at particular risk as a global rise in temperature of between 1.1 and 3.1 degrees C would increase the mean sea level by 0.36 to 0.73 meters by 2100, adversely impacting low-lying areas with submergence, flooding, erosion, and saltwater intrusion, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). But even before such catastrophes strike, the 660 to 820 million people who depend on a fishing livelihood – more so subsistence-based traditional fisher families who already find catches sharply dwindling due to over-fishing – will have no option but to abandon both home and occupation and move.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population. William Lacy Swing, Director General of IOM, spoke with IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena at the second UN Environmental Assembly May 23-27 in Nairobi where 174 countries focused on environmental implementation of the work that would achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Excerpts from the interview follow.