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Population growth, climate change and refugees

By Guy Hallowes - posted Wednesday, 21 January 2015

In this article I will argue that population growth, climate change and the number of refugees seeking a bolt hole in so called developed countries are all intertwined and interdependent. It is also clear that the response of the developed world is inappropriate and ineffective.

Population growth

World population is forecast to increase from seven billion today, up from about two billion before the Second World War, to more than nine billion by 2050 (Ref: United Nations). Almost all of the growth will come from the 'undeveloped' world. As an example take Kenya, where I was born and still know well. At independence in 1963 the population was about nine million, today, fifty years later it is nearer fifty million representing a growth of some five hundred percent. No country can or can be expected to provide basic infrastructure such as roads schools and hospitals to cope with such population growth and nor have they. What makes the situation worse is the culture of corruption in the country; it started after independence and has continued unabated under successive Governments (ref: It's Our Turn to Eat by Michaela Wrong). This applies to Kenya and most other countries in Africa (The shining exception is Botswana, again a country I have lived in and know well).


Examples of climate change fuelling conflict

Syria. Climate change is fuelling conflict throughout the world: one of the reasons for the bloody conflict in Syria is that climate change caused a massive and prolonged drought in the north of the country which the Government was unable or unwilling to do anything about, such as providing welfare relief (Ref: Years of Living Dangerously TV series currently showing on SBS). Obviously there are other issues driving this conflict, but it is clear that climate change created the spark that resulted in the conflagration that has now engulfed the whole country and has allowed for the development of the extremist IS, which now occupies parts of Syria and northern Iraq.

Kenya. Again I am using Kenya as an example. Somali tribesmen have never accepted the Colonial boundary between the two countries, and the border is impossible to police anyway. They have always grazed their cattle on the Kenya side of the border and continue to do so in increasing numbers. With poor rains and the growth of population in Somalia (now about 10million up from 3 million in 1960) more and more Somalis are crossing the border into Kenya and are spreading far and wide, encroaching into areas that have been traditionally occupied by the Maasai, increasing the potential for conflict. Somalia is a 'failed state' and has been for nearly thirty years, and there is an ongoing low-level war between Al-Shabab (an Al-Qaeda offshoot) in Somalia and the Kenyan military, which is likely to escalate and has already resulted in atrocities such as the raid on an up market shopping centre in Nairobi in 2013..

Algeria. Only three percent of its area is arable and the expectation is that the Country will be seriously impacted by climate change, reducing that area even further (Ref: Institute for Security Studies). The Country's large, growing population (39 million-Ref: Wikipedia) and proximity to Europe means that more and more Algerians will be seeing migration to Europe whether legally or illegally as a real option.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has predicted that there will be seventeen countries in Africa that will become 'failed states' by 2030 mainly as a result of warming climates.

It is quite clear that growing populations of all countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and the rampant corruption in many of those countries is going to cause more and more pressure from refugees wishing to find a safe haven, mainly in Europe, but also Australia.


According to the United Nations, today, there are fifty one million people round the world officially classed as refugees, and the number is growing at some twenty thousand per day - desperate people looking for somewhere to go.

All the effort and rhetoric in the developed world is focussed on trying to stop the flood of refugees that is about to engulf us all, and we are trying to do it once people have already committed themselves to the increasingly hazardous journey to find a billet in the developed world. The old adage of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted comes to mind.

Examples of this approach abound. The Europeans have significantly reduced their capacity to rescue people from drowning in the Mediterranean, people who are often trying to reach Europe in leaky unseaworthy boats; the Australian Government has implemented a policy of 'Stopping The Boats'; the US continues to strengthen its border fence with Mexico, and so on.

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About the Author

Sydney-based Guy Hallowes is the author of Icefall, a thriller dealing with the consequences of climate change. He has also written several novels on the change from Colonial to Majority rule in Africa. To buy browse and buy his books click here.

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