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Unformatted text preview: Received 23 May 2001 Accepted 30 May 2001 Published online 19 October 2001 Environmental refugees: a growing phenomenon of the 21st century Norman Myers Green College, University of Oxford, Upper Meadow, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 8SZ, UK ( email@example.com ) There is a new phenomenon in the global arena: environmental refugees. These are people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, defores- tation and other environmental problems, together with the associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty. In their desperation, these people feel they have no alternative but to seek sanctuary elsewhere, however hazardous the attempt. Not all of them have fled their countries, many being internally displaced. But all have abandoned their homelands on a semi-permanent if not permanent basis, with little hope of a foreseeable return. In 1995, environmental refugees totalled at least 25 million people, compared with 27 million traditional refugees (people fleeing political oppression, religious persecution and ethnic troubles). The total number of environmental refugees could well double by the year 2010, and increase steadily for a good while thereafter as growing numbers of impoverished people press ever harder on overloaded environments. When global warming takes hold, there could be as many as 200 million people overtaken by sea-level rise and coastal flooding, by disruptions of monsoon systems and other rainfall regimes, and by droughts of unprecedented severity and duration. Keywords: refugees; other migrants; environment; future outlook; global warming; sea-level rise 1. INTRODUCTION In early 1999, there were almost 22 million traditional and internationally recognized refugees (people fleeing polit- ical oppression, religious persecution and ethnic troubles). Their numbers had declined from a peak of 27 million in 1995 but remained higher than the 19 million of 1993 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop- ment 1998; Renner 2000; Salgado 2000). In addition, there were large numbers of people who could be charac- terized as environmental refugees, or people who could no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with the associa- ted problems of population pressures and profound pov- erty. Not all of them have fled their countries, many being internally displaced. In 1995, they were estimated to have totalled at least 25 million, and their numbers have been increasing (Myers 1997; Myers & Kent 1995; see also Blaikie et al. 1994; Doos 1997; Ramlogan 1996; Renner 2000; Suhrke 1994; UN High Commissioner for Refugees 1995; Westing 1992)....
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