IDMC: Worldwide Local weather Refugees are a Fantasy

Do Your Own Research? | Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

IDMC, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, believes there are many climate refugees, but most of them stay at home.

IDMC has been shattering myths about climate change and disaster-related displacement since 2008

News and press release

Published on November 4, 2020
Originally published October 22, 2020 Origin Original View


As we speak The number of internally displaced people worldwide has reached an all-time high. Disasters triggered most of the new displacements in 2019, nearly 25 million or two-thirds of the total, and most were associated with weather-related hazards such as storms, floods and droughts. Given the expected impacts of climate change, unless we seriously address the structural causes that expose people and make them prone to disaster displacement, these numbers are likely to increase.

In the last few months, however IDMC is concerned about the narrative addressing climate change and displacement, fueled in large part by the unconfirmed rumors circulating on social media. Just as the World Health Organization is fighting against “infodemies” in connection with COVID-19, we feel the need to combat misinformation about displaced population groups. There are a number of myths that are perpetuated at the risk of those affected. IDMC has been monitoring and analyzing disaster shifts since 2008, and we want to counter these myths with the evidence we've gathered over more than two decades.


Climate change is seen as direct and automatic in large cross-border movements of people and significant new migration to high-income regions. This could limit human mobility and access to international protection, sometimes leading to increased investment in risk reduction, peace building and sustainable development. In reality, climate migration is largely internal. According to the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could move more than 140 million people in their countries by 2050 without urgent global and national action.

Our original research on the complex dynamics of human mobility in the context of climate change and on the many factors influencing the cross-border flight between internally displaced persons and refugees paints a very different picture than the collective representation of billions of migrants at the borders of Europe. Instead of drawing attention to border controls and deterrence, it supports a renewed emphasis on building resistance in countries hardest hit by climate change and a focus on local and national leadership.

If you would like to take part in the kick-off events, please contact [email protected]


I think the suggestion that people moving a few miles down the road are "climate migrants" is a little doubtful. There are many reasons people might want to say they are moving away from a large river that has nothing to do with climate change.

For example, when the UK experienced severe flooding in 2015, UK government officials were quick to blame climate change. Brits who, according to the definition of the IDMC, moved to a higher level in order to escape the risk of flooding are now considered internally displaced "climate refugees".

Not so fast.

… For people who depended on land for a living, it was evident that failure to keep the rivers free of sand and gravel would cause them to burst their banks and destroy fertility in a matter of hours, the generations had needed to create them and wash down houses and drown their cattle.

In the past century, the obligation to dredge the rivers was transferred to local river boards made up of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its features and who were legally required to prevent or minimize flooding.

However, all of that changed with the creation of the Environment Agency in 1997 and when we passed it European Water Framework Directive in 2000. The authorities were no longer obliged to prevent floods. Instead, in an astonishing policy reversal, the focus shifted to the primary commitment to "achieving good ecological status" for our national rivers. This is defined as being as close as possible to “undisturbed natural conditions”. "Heavily modified waters", which include rivers that have been dredged or dammed to prevent flooding, can by definition never meet the requirements of the Directive. To fulfill the obligations imposed on us by the EU We had to stop dredging and damming and allow the rivers to reconnect with their is the current fashionable jargon.

And to ensure this, the dredging obligation has been shifted from the responsible legal authority (now the Environment Agency) to each individual landowner, while ensuring that no funds are available for dredging. And Sand and gravel that may be removed are now classified as "hazardous waste". and cannot be deposited to raise the riverbanks like it used to be, however has to be carted away.

Author: Local farmer and historian Phillip Walling

Read more:

If the author is right, the serial incompetence of the UK river management authorities failing to dig the rivers is the real culprit, combined with persistent micromanagement from Brussels, not climate change.

There are many other government failures that could be responsible for internal migration. For example, the spread of counterfeit antimalarials has increased massively in recent years. Real malaria drugs and chemicals are expensive, so there are huge profits to be made for criminals and corrupt government officials who commit such fraud.

A sensible response to a sharp rise in malaria caused by this evil would be to migrate malaria-prone swamps to drier areas where you have more chances of avoiding infection. Surprise, more "climate refugees".

Given the shortage of real international climate refugees, I expect further attempts in the future to redefine the term “climate refugee” to include pretty much anyone who chooses to move home, even if they stay in the same country.

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