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Climate Change to Significantly Increase Asylum Applications to the EU by 2100, Study Finds

Posted December 26, 2017

Conducted on the basis of current trends and alternatives thereof, a new study has found that a massive influx of climate refugees into Europe is a near certainty if carbon emissions stay on course, with the number of asylum seekers increasing by a quarter even under the most optimistic of scenarios.

The study, conducted by Wolfram Schlenker from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and Anouch Missirian, a PhD candidate at the same institution, looked at the correlation between the number of asylum applications to the EU filed by people from 103 countries between 2000 and 2014, and variations in temperature.

Results indicate that increases in temperature above 20°C (which is optimal for agriculture) during the growing season lead to higher numbers of people seeking refuge in foreign countries.

A growing body of evidence shows that in addition to the many negative effects of climate change, documented by researchers around the world, it will likely also lead to an escalating refugee crisis – even under the most optimistic of scenarios. Image credit: Ggia via, CC BY-SA 4.0.

This works out to 28 percent more applications for asylum by 2100 if carbon emissions flatten globally over the next few decades and then decline (the optimistic scenario), or as much as 188 percent more if things keep going without change, which could result in global temperatures rising by 2.6 to 4.8°C as the world enters the upcoming century.

With the recent decision made by Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the optimistic scenario is becoming almost unthinkable – especially considering that even if all parties to the accord were to fully discharge their obligations, it might still not be enough to reach the stated goal.

The paper adds to a growing body of evidence showing that apart from being an existential threat to humanity, climate change may also lead to more violence and war, as well as reactionary backlash resulting in the rise of anti-immigration and right-wing populist forces.

“We will need to build new institutions and systems to manage this steady flow of asylum seekers,” said Solomon Hsian behind the study linking modern El Niño drought cycles to higher incidence of violence and war across the world.

“As we have seen from recent experience in Europe, there are tremendous costs, both to refugees and their hosts, when we are caught flat footed. We should plan ahead and prepare.”

Source: study abstract,

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