"50 Million 'Environmental Refugees' by 2020, Experts Say"

"WASHINGTON -- Fifty million 'environmental refugees' will flood into the global north by 2020, fleeing food shortages sparked by climate change, experts warned at a major science conference that ended here Monday.

'In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees,' Cristina Tirado, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

'When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate,' she said, outlining with the other speakers how climate change is already impacting the amount of food we have -- food security -- and food safety, or the healthfulness of that food.

Southern Europe is already seeing a sharp increase in what has long been a slow but steady flow of migrants from Africa, many of whom risk their lives to cross the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain from Morocco or sail in makeshift vessels to Italy from Libya and Tunisia.

The flow recently grew to a flood after a month of protests in Tunisia, triggered by food shortages and widespread unemployment and poverty, brought down the government of long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, said Ewen Todd, a professor at Michigan State University, predicting there would be more of the same."

AFP had the story February 21, 2011.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011