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Climate disasters ’caused more internal displacement than war’ in 2020

Climate disasters ‘caused more internal displacement than war’ in 2020

Refugee organisation says 30m new displacements last year were due to floods, storms or wildfires

Intense storms and flooding triggered three times more displacements than violent conflicts did last year, as the number of people internally displaced worldwide hit the highest level on record.

There were at least 55 million internally displaced people (IDPs) by the end of last year, according to figures published by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

There were more than twice as many people displaced within their own country as forced out of their country as refugees, the IDMC said. The number is the highest on record, but in line with its steady rise over the past decade.

During a year that was the warmest on record, 5 million more people were displaced than in 2019.

To demonstrate the scale of the situation, the Norwegian centre’s recording system covers not only where the overall number of displaced people stood up to the end of 2020 – but also the number of moves, or “displacements”, that happened within 2020 alone. If a woman is forced from her home because of flooding, for example, and then wildfires wreck her displaced-persons camp, this counts as two displacements, though one person has been displaced.

Looking first at the overall total of 55 million internally displaced people, the report found that about 48 million people had been uprooted from their homes as a result of conflict and violence up to the end of last year, while 7 million had been displaced by disasters. The IDMC said the latter was likely to be a significant underestimate due to incomplete data.

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