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  • Lauren Salim

Ecological Threats, Conflict, & Forced Displacement

September 1, 2022

[Image Source: Thibaud Moritz/AFP/Getty, via The Guardian]

2021 was a devastating year for climate events globally.

In Canada, Lytton, British Columbia broke the national all-time temperature record by 8°F for three consecutive days as the temperature hit 49.6°C (121°F) on July 29th. One day later, the town burned down in a wildfire caused by the extreme heat.

In Pakistan, extreme heat waves led to power blackouts as people struggled to keep cool while Germany and Belgium saw devastating floods in July 2021.

In the U.S., Hurricane Ida also caused heavy flooding up the east coast. In total, the U.S. saw a record-smashing 20 weather or climate disasters. Each caused at least $1 billion in damage.

Over the last 50 years, extreme weather events caused an average U.S. $ 202 million economic losses per day globally and scientists, statisticians, and others agree it is only going to get worse.

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an Australian think tank, released their 2021 Ecological Threat Report which ranks 178 countries and independent states based on an ecological threat register, combining ecological threats and societal resilience to predict what areas could see a decline in peacefulness.

The Ecological Threat Report (ETR) showed a high degree of correlation between countries that score poorly on the ecological threat scale and countries with lower levels of positive peace, which is the “attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies”. Not a single country with high levels of positive peace scored poorly on the ETR.

List of countries most at risk according to the ETR 2021:

Countries that lack the institutions and structures to be more resilient to ecological threats and that are most susceptible to these threats due to geography or other factors are going to suffer the most in the coming decades. The IEP estimates that by 2050, there will be 4.7 billion people living in countries facing high to extreme ecological threats. These at risk people will account for an estimated 48.7% of the world’s total population.

To put this in perspective, at the end of 2020 there were 82.4 million people forcibly displaced globally (1 in 94 people) either from conflict or ecological threats. Both causes of displacement are inextricably intertwined in many instances as ecological threats frequently cause resource scarcity which leads to conflict which inevitably leads to increased resource scarcity and other health, social, and economic inequalities.

Currently, many aid organizations choose one or a couple sets of ‘needs’ to target their resources towards (i.e. access to water, refugee support, etc.). However, if resiliency to ecological threats, food security, conflicts, and economic success, are all related, it might be beneficial for aid organizations to have a more holistic approach to their focus areas.

As the end of summer in the northern hemisphere approaches, we need to prepare for heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events. Most importantly, we all need to pay closer attention to the effects of climate change and particularly on the way it affects others around the globe. To address this global issue, world leaders will need to plan ahead and collaborate on issues that affect positive peace and prepare for an influx of internally and externally displaced peoples.


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