CLIMATE REFUGEES - The Years Project


By The YEARS Project

On YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, we’re dedicated to telling the stories of the millions of people who may be displaced by the environmental disasters brought on by climate change.

What is a climate refugee?

Legally, a refugee is a person who has been forced to flee his or her country because of violence, persecution or war. This definition does not necessarily cover people who are displaced by natural disasters, which are becoming more severe in the face of climate change. However, there’s a growing awareness that climate change has as much potential to displace communities as violent conflict. According to the UN Refugee Agency, over 25 million people are forced to leave their homes due to disasters every year.

Out of Africa

The current refugee crisis faced by Europe is worsened in part by extreme drought in regions of the Middle East and Africa. For YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, Thomas L. Friedman reverses the journey of many migrants by traveling from France to Niger to learn why people are leaving their homes.


Climate change can also drive people from their traditional homelands, without forcing them to leave the country entirely. That’s the story Michael C. Hall discovers when he travels to Bangladesh, a country where rising seas are destroying homes and ruining cropland.

The Coral Triangle

While rising seas and extreme drought threaten other parts of the world, dying corals may force people to leave their homes in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. As the coral reefs bleach, they can no longer support the fish that many communities in the Coral Triangle depend on for survival. In “Collapse of the Oceans,” Joshua Jackson travels to the Philippines to find out what the future could look like for the 380 million people who call this region home.

The problem isn’t confined to areas outside the U.S. In 2016, the U.S. government awarded $48 million dollars to a small costal community in Louisiana to resettle entirely. That payment is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential costs of resettling and caring for climate change refugees. Looking ahead, anywhere from 50 million to 200 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050, if aggressive action to cut pollution isn’t taken.