Record 26.4 Million Displaced by Natural Disasters in 2023 as Climate Crisis Intensifies

A record 26.4 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2023, with floods, storms, earthquakes, and wildfires affecting 148 countries. Earthquakes and volcanic activity triggered 6.1 million displacements, with Turkey and Syria accounting for 4.7 million alone.

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Record 26.4 Million Displaced by Natural Disasters in 2023 as Climate Crisis Intensifies

Record 26.4 Million Displaced by Natural Disasters in 2023 as Climate Crisis Intensifies

A staggering 26.4 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2023, marking the third-highest annual total in the past decade, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Floods, storms, earthquakes, and wildfires affected 148 countries, including Canada, New Zealand, Turkey, and Syria, highlighting the far-reaching impact of the escalating climate crisis.

Why this matters: The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters not only have devastating immediate effects but also exacerbate existing social, economic, and political vulnerabilities, potentially destabilizing entire regions. As the climate crisis continues to intensify, the world's ability to respond to and mitigate these disasters will have a direct impact on global security, economic stability, and human well-being.

The report reveals that earthquakes and volcanic activity triggered 6.1 million displacements in 2023, with the devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria accounting for 4.7 million alone. IDMC director Alexandra Bilak emphasized the stark differences in how displacement affects countries that prepare and plan for climate impacts compared to those that do not. "Those that look at the data and make prevention, response and long-term development plans that consider displacement fare far better," she stated.

The climate crisis is making extreme weather events more frequent and intense, leading to increased displacement. Cyclone Freddy triggered 1.4 million movements across six countries and territories in southeastern Africa, while floods and storms caused the most disaster displacement overall in 2023. Many countries that experienced conflict displacement, such as Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also faced disaster displacement, compounding the crises.

Even high-income countries were not spared from the impacts of natural disasters. Canada and New Zealand recorded their highest figures of disaster displacement ever in 2023. As the 2024 Canadian wildfire season begins, concerns are growing that the record-breaking destruction and environmental impact of the previous year may not have been an anomaly. Over 1,000 blazes have been recorded in just two weeks, with 143 wildfires active across the country, 39 of which are listed as out of control.

The increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters have turned Canada's wildfire season into a predictable annual crisis, with far-reaching consequences for national security and the well-being of communities. "We're going to see lots more wildfires in the coming years and decades as the climate warms," warned Ze'ev Gedalof, an associate professor researching forestry and climatology at the University of Guelph. "It's not rocket science. When it gets warmer and drier, we're going to see longer fire seasons and we're going to see hotter fires."

As the world grapples with the escalating climate crisis, the record-breaking displacement figures serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for action. With millions of lives uprooted and communities devastated, it is clear that the time for decisive measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change and build resilience is now. The path forward demands a concerted effort from governments, organizations, and individuals to prioritize prevention, response, and long-term development plans that consider displacement and protect the most vulnerable populations.

Key Takeaways

  • 26.4 million people displaced by natural disasters in 2023, 3rd highest in a decade.
  • Earthquakes and volcanic activity triggered 6.1 million displacements, with Turkey and Syria accounting for 4.7 million.
  • Cyclone Freddy caused 1.4 million displacements across 6 countries in southeastern Africa.
  • High-income countries like Canada and New Zealand also experienced record-breaking disaster displacement.
  • Climate crisis intensification demands urgent action to mitigate impacts and build resilience.