Today, Africa is the last continent with significant population growth and a continent that will and is already severely affected by climate change. The ECONOMIST designs a scenario of what this could look like in the future. There will be dramatic and above all internal migration movements, a migration from the countryside to the cities.
The article cites a forecast that by 2050, between 44 and 216 million people in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Islands could migrate in their own countries.
There are about 100 million displaced people worldwide today, mostly due to war, so Groundswell’s higher estimate of 216 million additional climate migrants would represent a tripling.
In sub-Saharan Africa alone, around 20 to almost 90 million refugees are expected. A process leading to a total Transforming African economies (not only there) will lead. By then, Africa’s population could almost triple to 3.9 billion. More than every third person would then live in Africa:
In 2023, only three cities on the continent – Cairo, Lagos and Kinshasa – will have more than ten million inhabitants. The Universities of Toronto predict that there will be 13 by the end of the century. 88 million people could then live in Lagos alone, four times as many as now. Nigeria’s economic metropolis would probably be the largest city in the world.
It is also clear that these cities will not look like what Parag Khanna predicts in the WORLD above for the rich Gulf countries:
The Gulf is expected to form a chain of well-conditioned, interconnected city-states and cooperate with Israel, from which it is learning techniques for desert greening, seawater desalination and aquaculture. Government-run “cooling centers”—public spaces where people can escape the heat and drink water—and radically changed urban architecture with green spaces, wind tunnels, and air-conditioning systems that regulate indoor and outdoor temperatures are helping citizens deal with extreme heat.
We also have no way of knowing how much migration there will really be as a result of climate change.
In “Nomad Century,” a book published last year, Gaia Vince wrote that if the world were to get 4°C hotter by 2100 (an apocalyptic scenario), regions currently inhabited by 3.5 billion people would become uninhabitable. Extreme predictions like these are often taken up for political reasons.
Some use such threats to lend urgency to their demands to limit emissions as soon as possible. Others in richer countries take such imaginary hordes of climate migrants as an opportunity to close their borders. Conflicting goals are usually ignored. The ECONOMIST uses figures (assumed to be more plausible) from a World Bank model known as “Groundswell”, the results of which were last updated in 2021. The model uses a “gravity model” to simulate how changes in variables such as water availability, agriculture and sea levels might push people from some areas to other regions. This is also where the above figures for internal migration in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Islands come from.
So it is clear that there will (have to) be large migrations in the direction of the cities. The ECONOMIST sees, among other things, positive aspects in an African mass migration to the metropolises that would also apply without climate change. The article runs its analyzes and scenarios using three example countries: Niger, Egypt and Bangladesh. We take Niger:
Almost the entire population of a good 22 million lives in the south. In the north lies the desert, which makes up 80% of the country. The change in the climate has, among other things, significantly altered the country’s precipitation. Between 2010 and 2022, the west of the country was drier than the 30-year average, while the east was wetter. The direction of migration is given as a given – see the active graphs.
Few in Niger could afford to move to Europe, but many can move within the country. Groundswell predicts that between 6 and 8 million will do so by 2050, or 11-13% of the projected population, proportionately more than any other West African country.
Am Edge of Niamey, the capital of Niger, it already looks like the villages have moved into the city. Waves of villagers have arrived, largely because of climate change. Groups of round wooden huts have emerged. Cows and goats graze in the shade.
The seasons aren’t as good as they used to be. It’s hotter and the rains often fail,” says Ganso Seyni Ali, the leader of a group of herders from rural Niger. He has moved to the city permanently with half his home village — over 150 families. For a visitor from a wealthy one “Land their settlement looks bleak. They have no right to the land they occupy and are regularly evicted. But the city is safer than the countryside, where shepherds and farmers constantly clashed in disputes over dwindling pasture and water. Mr. Ali describes deadly fights fought with guns, arrows and machetes. In the city such a quarrel is rare, partly because life is less desperate. Mr. Ali’s group has quickly adapted to their new surroundings. They bring their cows out of town to graze and find extra feed by knocking on doors to ask for leftover vegetables They have an easier time selling milk with the many customers around. ……. Many of his group have also found work. “It’s better here. There’s work,” says Ali Soumana, a former rancher who now produces bricks. Earlier in the village he didn’t have enough to eat; now.”
It is not only in Niger that poverty in cities is usually less dramatic than in the villages. Wages are higher and less dependent on the weather. In many villages almost no children attended school. In the city, where schools are easier to reach, they are more likely to send their children to study.
In Niamey, that number has jumped to 30% or so, he estimates. That may be low, but it’s progress. In Niger as a whole, urban children are twice as likely to attend primary school than their rural peers and nearly four times as likely to attend secondary school.
This makes it easier to find well-paid work. Health care is also usually better in the cities. The biggest positive change can be expected in birth rates.
In sub-Saharan Africa, rural women have an average of 5.8 babies each, while urban women have just 3.9. … So climate migration could reduce population growth in some places where it is highest.
The accelerated urbanization caused by climate change is also expected to accelerate cultural change – the consequences of which should not be underestimated. Niger’s population e.g. B. is still more than 80% rural. These villages are often places where old men cling rigidly to old traditions. Those who suppress women, for example, but also hinder any other innovation. In the big city with its increasing individualization, the freedom to go your own way, their power and influence is weakening.
Climate change could therefore lead people to prefer migration, which would have been in their interest for a long time anyway.
A 2020 study in Kenya found that rural people underestimate what wages are in the capital, making them less likely to move there.
It would therefore be worth considering changing the policy aimed at the estimated 475 million small farms in the world. So far efforts have tended to focus on
to help them stay where they are by adopting more climate-friendly farming techniques. That can be useful. But many of these small farms will eventually become unsustainable due to climate change. Many farmers are having to give up farming, find other jobs, and rely on larger, more capital-intensive operations for food.
And so scientists like Sam Huckstep and Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development suggest to a think tank in Washington,
that governments should subsidize urban-rural transport, explain to rural people how much urban jobs should pay and help them find work when they arrive in the city. They should also make government benefits transferable so migrants don’t lose them when they move.
The challenges of climate change, both mitigating and adapting to what is unavoidable, are enormous. This is precisely why you should do both proactively and in a controlled manner. And so the article concludes:
All of this may seem scary. But if you think of climate mobility “as a process happening over the next hundred years, it’s a lot less scary,” says AR Siders of the University of Delaware. “Things will be very different in a hundred years… So resisting change is nonsensical.”
As so often in the long history of mankind, climate change, this time successfully limited and managed by those who caused it, then even becomes a development accelerator.