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Poor nations pay price as millions flee ‘climate chaos’, Oxfam says

People are three times more likely to be displaced by cyclones, floods or fires than by conflicts, study finds.
Survivors of cyclone Idai cross a temporary foot bridge to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 25, 2019. Image: Reuters

Fiercer weather and worsening wildfires drove more than 20 million people a year from their homes over the last decade – a problem set to worsen unless leaders act swiftly to head off surging climate threats, anti-poverty charity Oxfam said on Monday.

Much of the displacement caused by cyclones, floods and fires appeared temporary and in some cases due to better efforts to evacuate people ahead of danger, Oxfam researchers said.

But its “sheer scale” was a surprise, said Tim Gore, Oxfam’s climate policy leader, with island nations like Cuba, Dominica and Tuvalu seeing on average close to 5% of their people out of their homes in any given year.

“This is the warming world we have long been warning about. Now we’re seeing it play out before our eyes,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As two weeks of UN climate change negotiations began Monday in Madrid, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said it was widely accepted that one of the most severe effects of climate change would be on human migration.

“Extreme weather events are already displacing many more people than violent conflicts,” she said on a panel with leaders of vulnerable countries at the talks. “Slow onset events like sea-level rise and desertification get even lower global focus.”

She said international discussions should focus on helping affected countries relocate people at risk and protect those who have been displaced, including by creating a global framework to address their needs.

The Oxfam study, released Monday, examined the numbers of people displaced inside their home countries by climate-fuelled disasters between 2008 and 2018, based on government and international agency data, as well as media reports.

People were three times more likely to be displaced by cyclones, floods or fires than by conflicts, it found.

Some countries, like war-torn Somalia, were battered by both droughts and floods, sometimes in the same year.

That “confluence of disasters” leaves many poor nations – where most of the displacement is occurring – struggling to recover from one crisis before the next hits, said Gore of Oxfam.

Some have run aid appeals for both drought and flood relief simultaneously, he said.

“This is extraordinary,” he said. “This is climate chaos – what it actually looks like.”

Seven of the top 10 countries with the highest displacement by proportion of their population were developing island states, largely in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the report found.

But around 80% of all people forced from their homes by weather disasters over the last decade were in Asia, where large populations in countries from the Philippines to Sri Lanka live in areas threatened by cyclones or flooding, it said.

In May, Cyclone Fani alone led to the displacement of 3.5 million people in Bangladesh and India, most of them evacuated in advance of the storm in order to hold down casualties.

Overall, the number of weather disasters considered extreme grew five-fold over the last decade, researchers said.

Another analysis, released on Monday by aid charity Save the Children, found that extreme weather in eastern and southern Africa this year – including two cyclones that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi – drove as many people from their homes by June as in all of 2018 in the region.

The Oxfam study did not look comprehensively at how many people were uprooted by “slow onset” disasters like droughts, where it is harder to judge the beginning and end, Gore said.

Including drought-linked displacement would make the numbers “much higher”, he added.

It also did not estimate how much of the displacement became permanent – “a really unknown quantity”, Gore said.

In 2018, Oxfam made a rough estimate of the number displaced by extreme weather disasters during the year who were still out of their homes by the end of it, and came up with about 10-20%.

Spiralling costs 

As more people leave their homes as a result of weather disasters, costs – and threats to social stability – are rising quickly for the countries trying to manage that displacement, often with few resources, the report said.

At the UN climate talks, environmental and development groups are pushing to establish a fund to bail out countries on the frontline of “loss and damage” as a hotter planet brings wilder weather and rising seas.

A Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was created at climate negotiations in 2013 with the aim of aiding poor nations that have produced few of the emissions that drive climate change but are suffering its strongest effects.

So far, however, the mechanism has produced little concrete help or new money for those countries, beyond backing the use of insurance policies to limit losses, critics say.

Gore said insurance alone could not address the whole problem. “Loss and damage is the next key battleground of the climate talks,” he added.

Recent analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute, endorsed by nearly 100 civil society groups, estimated new finance of at least $50 billion a year would be needed by 2022 to deal with loss and damage, rising to $300 billion by 2030.

Gore said no amount of help would enable everyone to stay in their homes as climate change impacts strengthen, and preparing now would help protect those on the move.

“Are we going to manage this, or see the people least responsible for the crisis forced from their homes in a chaotic way that tramples on their rights?” he asked.

“The costs are going to continue to spiral. The sooner we get down to serious negotiations about how to manage it in a serious, responsible way, the better,” he said. 


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The world’s financial system is mostly to blame.

I would lean towards blaming unbridled population growth. Having too many babies in countries with poor agricultural potential – the average woman in Chad has 6 plus babies – does nothing to alleviate poverty. I never hear Oxfam addressing this root cause of much human suffering though.

The moderators removed all my recent comments. Lekker ne?

Overpopulation is the root cause of human migration. If education, accessibility of contraception were to be encouraged, the rate of migration would decrease.

Moneyweb= censorship

Its becoming unbearable, everything in SA is going to the dogs, even the independent news. Sad

Censorweb indeed. I had two completely innocuous comments removed on Sat 7 Dec.
I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It — Voltaire/Evelyn Beatrice Hall

The Israelis live in a desert. I don’t see any of them fleeing because of a lack of rain. So there must be another reason why people flee to escape the effects of weather. Maybe they are fleeing to escape the effects of a certain political system. The drought was merely the trigger.
People flee from the famine-causing effects of a Maduro, Mugabe, Amin and Malema, irrespective of the rainfall.

Who trusts Oxfam? Guilty of all sorts of abuse.

I tried to explain this and their links to terrorism and got censored.

This is simply hogwash.

Of course the climate is changing – it always has. Of course there are droughts. There always have been droughts and starvation since biblical times and they have been fairly well documented over the centuries.

The only difference now is that countries like the US are pushing the agenda to create new markets. They create an enormous amount of hype around new lingo (not unlike Bell Pottinger in SA) and create a culture of fear around that to convince NGOs and lobby governments to change regulations thus forcing the adoption of the new markets. e.g. alternative lightbulbs, alternative power sources, battery systems, electric cars, etc.

There is no doubt that there is pollution. Just walk down the street and see the plastics and rubbish that will go to a landfill or into the oceans. Or drive past factories and power stations and see smoke being emitted. That is a problem that needs to be solved because it has an impact on the health of life on earth.

There is no doubt that there is climate change. I am not denying that.

What I think is nonsense is the claim that humans are causing climate change to increase at such a rapid rate that it threatens our existence in the next 30 years and that the onus is on us to stop it.

I don’t believe for a second that the rate of climate change has in any way been significantly caused by any human activity, nor do I believe that there is currently any way for humans to stop the change in climate.

In a South African context, remember that the Table Mountain range was once an island and that the Cape Flats, Fish Hoek and Noordhoek were underwater.

Apply your minds people.

Thank you, TheSpark!

I agree 100% with you, and, IF the oceans are really warming up, it can ONLY be caused by an increase in the temperature of earth’s core.

Yeah and vaccines cause autism…

Sorry TheSpark, that my comment triggered a predictable response from PJJ, thus spoiling your sensible comment with … yes … hogwash!

The so-called climate scientists have to maximize the scare potential and minimize the timescales. You’re not going to be willing to cough up scare taxes for something that could, perhaps, maybe happen 150 years from now, will you? And this is what this is really about. Scaring people into paying more and more tax.

“I don’t believe for a second that the rate of climate change has in any way been significantly caused by any human activity, nor do I believe that there is currently any way for humans to stop the change in climate.”

See the key word there is: believe, this is what separates science from religion, you don’t have to believe anything, proof is presented to you, and if you feel that the truth is inaccurate or incomplete you try to get closer to it, it is what science has done for 100’s of years, constantly improving.

What most climate change skeptics on here do not seem to understand is, if you published a peer reviewed study in a respected scientific journal like Nature and have your work peer reviewed and shown to be “debunking” climate change you would probably be in line to receive a noble prize, you would be thanked throughout the scientific community for advancing science, so why don’t you take a second, and wonder why it hasn’t happened yet?

Because respected scientific journals don’t publish these articles? The scientist that ‘debunk’ climate change gets the cold shoulder.


If there work is not published it means its because it didn’t stand up to peer reviewed scrutiny.

Scientific journals do not work like news websites with op-ed sections.
If it doesn’t survive peer reviewed study it gets tossed in the bin.

@PJJ I suspect that a Nobel prize might be more respected than a noble prize.

Interesting that you raise the term “believe” as the axis of your argument. Short of you actually doing the research yourself, you are placing your faith in magazines such as Nature to supposedly always public accurate science, when in fact many of these magazines have themselves been involved in controversies by publishing unreviewed papers that turned out to be wrong.

Perhaps you could explain the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age to us and how humans cause that to happen a few hundred years ago. Of course their factories and cars must surely have done that hundreds of years ago. Right?


Firstly, Nature is not a magazine, its a scientific journal, if you don’t know what that implies I suggest you do a few google searches.

See it might seem tempting to read the research yourself, but seeing as neither you nor I or anyone on this site for that matter is a climate scientist, we will inevitably make false conclusions, or even worse, you will end up on websites that have a vested interest in their own narrative and not that of science.

What makes you think that the “research” you can get on the internet which most of the times is a wordpress blog pushing articles that don’t even have to be peer reviewed to be published is more founded in science than a journal where they have a reputation to maintain?

I could start my own climate change skeptic website in about 10 mins and if you happened to stumble upon it, already with a predetermined world view, you won’t give my thought to my shoddy work as it is confirming you world view, so no, more journals, less blogs.

“Perhaps you could explain the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age to us and how humans cause that to happen a few hundred years ago. Of course their factories and cars must surely have done that hundreds of years ago. Right?”

I can see someone has watched a Lord Monckton video…
If you really want to learn about the MWP and the Little Ice Age I suggest you what this video:

Actually, rather than take pseudo science from Youtube, I would suggest you read some books from emeritus professor of Anthropology, Brian Fagan.

He looks at how human behaviour changed as a result of climate over the ages which is about as strong evidence as you will get for climate change 100s and 1000s of years ago.

Some books that are useful are:
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300–1850;
The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations;
Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans
The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization;
Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilization

Alternatively, The Medieval Warm Period by Malcolm Hughes and Henry Diaz.

Most of these books were written before the hogwash hyper-media releases over recent years that are aimed at creating new markets.


Do you even know what pseudo science means?
If you actually challenge yourself to watch the video you will see that it is extremely well cited. (In the description of the video all the sources all linked)

If you think that any of the papers he mentions are wrong please share them with us.

“Most of these books were written before the hogwash hyper-media releases over recent years that are aimed at creating new markets.”

The theory that man could have a affect on climate (anthropogenic climate change) predates any of those books you cited.

In 1896 Svante Arrhenius theorized that increases in CO2 from human activities would lead to warming, he however thought that it would take thousands of years because of the low levels of emissions at the time.

Remember no one is deputing that the earth has been much hotter and much colder in the past the key here is timescales and events that triggered each of these.

Comments are disappearing. Carry on like this and no one will bother to comment anymore.

But, these ‘poor nations’ are poor for a reason. And now they need handouts again?

End of comments.





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