Climate change intensifies regular weather seasons. For example, when hurricane season begins, we see more intense Category 5 hurricanes rather than the historical Category 2 level hurricanes. In areas that experience regular monsoons, there are more intense rains and flooding. This was the case for Pakistan last month.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 7.6 million people have been displaced by the recent floods brought on by climate change. During the evacuations of Afghans over the past year, Pakistan welcomed many Afghan refugees into their country. So, those affected by this climate disaster included Pakistani residents and refugees. One early report by the UNHCR estimates that 1.3 million Afghan refugees are in Pakistan and over 400,000 were in the districts most hard hit, and more recent reports estimate that the number is more likely to be twice that.
When we look at the global trends for displacement, a term we use to describe people who must leave their homes and are unsure if they can return, the numbers are staggering. More and more people are being displaced, internally, by climate disasters. The Global Report on Internal Displacement published that, in 2021, 23.7 million people were displaced due to climate-related disasters versus 14.4 million people displaced from conflict and violence. Often, we hope that people can return to their homes once the weather stabilizes and the flood recedes. There is a growing concern, however, that more and more people will find it harder to return home and rebuild, making them climate refugees.
Anytime people are forced to leave the safety of their homes, it is devastating. Recognizing the role climate plays in this is essential to all of us, globally.