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Climate change could start forcing millions of Africans out of their homes within the next 9 years, World Bank report warns

Climate change impacts Central America
Climate change fueling migration from Central America 06:59

As global warming continues to worsen, the effects of climate change will force people worldwide to migrate to new areas to survive. Africa is expected to be among the hardest hit by climate change, and if actions aren't taken quickly, by 2050 the situation will be so dire that up to 86 million people will have to leave their homes, a new World Bank report found.

For this report, the World Bank, an international development organization that lends money to nations to help improve their standard of living, specifically looked in the West African and Lake Victoria Basin regions of the continent, which are home to millions of people. 

The regions, according to the report, have contributed the least to global warming, yet are set to experience "the most devastating impacts of climate change." 

Based on how climate change is being handled and the socioeconomic statuses of the regions, the World Bank predicts that climate migration "hot spots" in the areas could begin in the next nine years. 

"Without concrete climate and development action, West Africa could see as many as 32 million people forced to move within their own countries by 2050," a press release about the report states. "In Lake Victoria Basin countries, the number could reach a high of 38.5 million."

Out of the five countries that make up the Lake Victoria Basin — Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi — Tanzania will be most impacted by forced migration, the report says, with up to 16.6 million people being impacted. And in West Africa, Niger and Nigeria will see the largest numbers of internal climate migrants.  

Along with the more widely-discussed impacts of climate change, such as droughts and sea level rise, there are more subtle effects that will force people from their regions. Many areas will see spikes in temperature, more extreme weather events and land loss, while others will also see water and food scarcity, reduced agriculture, lower ecosystem productivity and higher storm surges, the report says. 

All of these factors will make many regions unlivable, and will push people to other areas that are more survivable. But as people migrate to escape these fragile environments, other issues already being experienced — poverty, conflict and violence — will only get worse, the report says. 

It's not just these regions in Africa facing this issue — millions of others around the world will be forced to migrate at the same time.  In September, another report by the World Bank warned that about 216 million people from these regions, as well as North Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, will also be on the move. 

World Bank published its newest findings ahead of the COP26 United Nations climate summit, which is set to begin on October 31. There, nearly every nation in the world will discuss how well they have upheld their promises to mitigate climate change. 

As part of the Paris Climate Agreement, global leaders are supposed to be implementing policies and developing strategies to limit global warming to less than 2° Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. If current policies do not change, however, it will lead to 2.9° Celsius, scientists say.

To prevent the soon-to-come mass migration, the World Bank said that the world must take "bold, transformative" actions, and quickly. If nations are able to do so, they could reduce the scale of climate migration by 30% in the Lake Victoria region and as much as 60% in West Africa, the report says. 

The World Bank said at the forefront of these efforts should be cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming, a promise of the Paris Climate Agreement.  Governments are also urged to develop resilient and inclusive climate migrations plans and invest in research and tools to better prepare for the future. Lastly, the World Bank said that investments must be made to help and encourage people get sustainable "climate smart" jobs. 

But for some areas, the effects are already pushing people to leave. 

Around 10,000 people have left Central America in an attempt to escape the effects of climate change. The region was blasted by two catastrophic category 4 hurricanes, Eta and Iota, just two weeks and 15 miles apart. Nearly 600,000 people had been displaced by the storms, and thousands of homes were completed destroyed. 

Their migration to Mexico and the U.S. for help and opportunities offered a dire warning about what the future may look like without immediate governmental climate action. 

Kayly Ober, senior advocate and program manager of the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International, previously told CBS News that these kinds of devastating events and the impending migrations thereafter will only increase. 

"We need to realize that climate change impacts are already influencing decisions to migrate today, and ensure that people moving are able to access safe and dignified pathways in their own country and abroad," Ober said in February. "...I am concerned that climate change impacts will only increase in frequency and intensity, and that without proper support or policy intervention, people will have to make the difficult to decision to move."

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