Fifty million people—the equivalent population of Burma, South Korea, Spain or South Africa—they’ve gone. Vanished. Or perhaps, more precisely, they’ve been disappeared.
That’s the number of “climate refugees” by 2010 that the United Nations Environment Programme forecast in its 2005 report, a prediction picked up this week by Sydney blogger Gavin Atkins, and thence Anthony Watts. As you can see from the report’s map (click it to enlarge), these millions were supposed to have poured by now out of the deltas of the Nile, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Yangtze rivers, together with pretty much every island in the Pacific and Indian oceans and some place labelled “Caribbian”. All victims of sea level rises. Oh yes, and everyone living above about 65°N will have fled the melting permafrost. And the entire population of Japan will have emigrated by now, pursued by raging hurricanes. Doesn’t that add up to more than fifty million people?
My personal favourite is the proclaimed climate exodus from my old stamping grounds in central-west New South Wales and central Queensland, also supposed to have occurred by last year. Due to desertification, apparently. I’m tickled pink trying to imagine the stampede of climate refugees fleeing Maria Island off Tasmania’s east coast—a mountainous island with no permanent inhabitants. And I’m mighty relieved to discover that Darwin, the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, is not in an area “exposed to hurricanes”. The UNEP had better tell them soon, before they spend too much money on useless precautions.
Well, 2010 has been and gone. And it appears that the UNEP figure of 50 million climate refugees has overstated the true figure by about… oh, by about 50 million.
Now, we all make mistakes. What counts is how you deal with them. So: did the UNEP do the honest thing—issue a press release saying something like, “Oops, we goofed. Uhh, there weren’t any climate refugees this year. Sorry about the false alarm. But we’d really like our funding levels maintained, or ideally increased, because you never know—all those climate refugees just might re-appear by 2015”?
Not on your Nelly, they didn’t. Instead, they have been busy in an Orwellian exercise of re-writing history, deleting the map from its website. As of today (17 April) you can still view the Google cache of the old page here. The UNEP would have you believe that they never made such erroneous predictions in the first place! I guess it goes into the same never-happened basket as other failed UN predictions of Global Warming, sea level rise, increases in hurricanes, and on, and on, and on…
The original page granting permission to reproduce this “map”, requests that acknowledgement be made to the cartographer, a certain Emmanuelle Bournay. I do so, though with some trepidation. The author’s rather embarrassing inability to grasp some of the most basic facts about world physical geography in this pastel-shaded blather makes the acknowledgement, I suspect, more of an unwelcome reminder. My father, a cartographer and a perfectionist, an old-school craftsman who worked freehand in the pre-computer age and whose maps were minor works of art, would be spinning in his grave right about now.
UPDATE 19-Oct-2013 Well, the stampede has finally begun: one climate refugee.
Well, sort of…