IDMC: International Climate Refugees are a Myth


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

IDMC, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, thinks there are lots of climate refugees, but they mainly stay at home.

IDMC has been busting myths around displacement linked with climate change and disasters since 2008. Let’s join forces

News and Press Release 

Posted 4 Nov 2020 
Originally published 22 Oct 2020 Origin View original


As we speak, the number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) worldwide has reached an all-time high. Disasters triggered the majority of new displacements in 2019, almost 25 million or two-thirds of the total, and most were linked to weather-related hazards such as storms, floods and droughts. With the expected impacts of climate change, these numbers will likely increase unless we get serious about addressing the structural causes that expose people and make them vulnerable to disaster displacement.

In the past months, however, IDMC has become concerned by the narrative that surrounds climate change and displacement, largely fuelled by unverified rumours circulating on social media. Just as the World Health Organization is fighting ‘infodemics’ related to COVID-19, we feel the need to tackle misinformation about displaced populations. There are a number of myths that are being perpetuated at the peril of those affected by disaster displacement. IDMC has been monitoring and analysing disaster displacement since 2008, and we want to counter these myths with the evidence we have gathered over more than two decades.


Climate change is seen as directly and automatically translating to large-scale, cross-border movements of people and significant new migration to high-income regions. This risks restricting both human mobility and access to international protection, sometimes at the cost of more investment in risk reduction, peace building and sustainable development. In reality, climate migration is largely internal. According to the World Bank, without urgent global and national action, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could see more than 140 million people move within their countries by 2050.

Our original research on the complex dynamics of human mobility in the context of climate change and on the many factors influencing internal to cross-border flight among IDPs and refugees, provides a very different picture to the common narrative of billions of migrants on the borders of Europe. Instead of directing attention toward border controls and deterrence, it supports a renewed emphasis on resilience building in countries most affected by climate change and a focus on local and national leadership.

If you are interested in participating in the kick-off events, please contact


I think the suggestion people moving a few miles down the road is “climate migration” is a little dubious. There are plenty of reasons people might want to say move away from a major river which have nothing to do with climate change.

For example, when the UK experienced severe flooding in 2015, British government officials were quick to blame climate change. British people who moved to higher ground to escape the flood risk, by the IDMC’s definition, would now be considered to be internally displaced “climate refugees”.

Not so fast.

… It was obvious to people, who depended on the land for their living that failing to keep the rivers clear of sand and gravel would cause them to burst their banks and destroy in a few hours fertility that had taken generations to create, wash away their houses, and drown their livestock.

Last century the obligation to dredge out the rivers was transferred to local river boards, consisting of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its characteristics, and who had statutory responsibilities to prevent or minimise flooding.

But all this changed with the creation of the Environment Agency in 1997 and when we adopted the European Water Framework Directive in 2000. No longer were the authorities charged with a duty to prevent flooding. Instead, the emphasis shifted, in an astonishing reversal of policy, to a primary obligation to achieve ‘good ecological status’ for our national rivers. This is defined as being as close as possible to ‘undisturbed natural conditions’. ‘Heavily modified waters’, which include rivers dredged or embanked to prevent flooding, cannot, by definition, ever satisfy the terms of the directive. So, in order to comply with the obligations imposed on us by the EU we had to stop dredging and embanking and allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, as the currently fashionable jargon has it.

And to ensure this is done, the obligation to dredge has been shifted from the relevant statutory authority (now the Environment Agency) onto each individual landowner, at the same time making sure there are no funds for dredging. And any sand and gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.

Author: Local farmer and historian Phillip Walling

Read more:

If the author is correct, the serial incompetence of British river management authorities who failed to dredge the rivers is the true culprit, combined with heavy handed micromanagement from Brussels, not climate change.

There are plenty of other government failures which could be responsible for driving internal migration. For example, there has been a massive rise in recent years in the distribution of fake anti-malarials. Genuine Anti-malarial drugs and chemicals are expensive, so there are huge profits for criminals and corrupt government officials who commit such fraud.

A reasonable response to a severe uptick in malaria caused by such evil would be to migrate away from malaria prone swamps, to drier ground where you have more chance of avoiding infection. Surprise, more “climate refugees”.

Given the lack of genuine international climate refugees, I expect to see many more attempts in the future to redefine the term “climate refugee” to include pretty much anyone who decides to move home, even if they stay in the same country.

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November 5, 2020 6:41 pm

What about climate policy refugees like me?

Bruce Cobb
November 5, 2020 6:41 pm

The old myth isn’t working out, so they’re creating a new one to displace the old one. This is known as Ideological Myth Displacement, or IMD. If you don’t like the climate narrative now, just wait a few minutes.

Curious George
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 6, 2020 7:51 am

They get paid for studying internal displacement, so internal displacement they manufacture and study.

Matt D
Reply to  Curious George
November 6, 2020 9:30 am

To a man with a hammer in his hand ( everything looks like a NAIL! )

November 5, 2020 6:53 pm

We had major dam failures in Michigan last summer. Maintenance of dams was partially responsible. However, Governor’s decision to not allow dam owners to lower water levels to protect sweet water mussels was a big factor.

Reply to  Mohatdebos
November 5, 2020 7:20 pm

Lead in the water. Cargo cult viral contagion mandates. Failed dams, too. Whitmer? Again.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  n.n
November 6, 2020 1:26 am

There is much modern myth about the dangers of Lead Pb in water being ingested.
Sure, high quantities of ingested Lead have been known to cause ailments and death, for many decades. Trace lead claims are quite shaky. They were developed to get rid of Lead in petrol, partly. That worked, but it cost society a fortune in poorer fuel economy for millions of automobiles.
There should be a proper evaluation of alleged toxicity from trace Pb ingestion. Geoff S

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  n.n
November 6, 2020 2:59 am

Lead poisoning was a major contributor to Roman mortality. However, the reason was not because of the water they drank was kept in lead-lined vessels and conduits. The main reason was the drinking of wine from lead-lined mugs. The acidity dissolved the lead in sufficient quantities to prove poisonous in the long run.

Matt D
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
November 6, 2020 9:29 am

Interesting..! And it makes perfect sense. Now obviously having a more advanced perspective in the present, reintroducing the use of lead isn’t anything we’re eager to engage in where other alternatives are readily available but..?

Feel the same way about (egad! ) asbestos. Is it good for you? No but, neither is having a rear end collision in your car or being burned to death due to inadequate fireproofing. In the end analysis, asbestos SAVED many fold lives than it cost. The posters here are just making too much sense!

Reply to  Mohatdebos
November 5, 2020 8:54 pm

According to Michigan government officials, that was not a dam “failure”
It was a deliberate release of water to encourage tourist boating and fishing on the streets of Midland, Michigan.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Richard Greene
November 6, 2020 3:26 pm

But I thought that only Gov Witchmer’s husband was allowed to use a boat?

November 5, 2020 7:17 pm

“IDMC has been monitoring and analysing disaster displacement since 2008, and we want to counter these myths with the evidence we have gathered over more than two decades.”
They don’t do math very well either.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  DMA
November 5, 2020 8:35 pm

2008 through 2010, and
2011 through 2020

That is 2 decades worth, sort of. But not 20 years.
I’ve noted frequently that Klimate Kritters just make stuff up.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  John F Hultquist
November 5, 2020 9:42 pm

They could have gotten away with that excuse, John, except they got greedy and claimed ‘over more than two decades’.

Someone claims more than two decades and I want to see 20 years, 0 days, 0 hours and 01 minute or I am calling fibs.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Craig from Oz
November 6, 2020 7:28 am

Well, OK, if you move the start of the decade to the zeroth year you get 2008-2009, 2010-2019, and 2020 onwards. It’s all about definitions.

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  DMA
November 6, 2020 4:29 am

From their website:

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is the world’s definitive source of data and analysis on internal displacement. Since our establishment in 1998 as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), we have offered a rigorous, independent and trusted service to the international community. Our work informs policy and operational decisions that improve the lives of the millions of people living in internal displacement, or at risk of becoming displaced in the future.

Since 1998.. sounds like more than two decades to me..

Snuffy Smiff
November 5, 2020 8:07 pm

Just like the fires in Australia and the western US-all of the measures that helped prevent them are now banned by those in ‘charge’…

Reply to  Snuffy Smiff
November 5, 2020 8:18 pm

What about all the Australians who moved to fire prone rural areas both outside major cities and smaller coastal and inland towns surrounded by large forests .
In Australia they have a phrase for these ‘climate migrants‘….Tree changers.

Pat from kerbob
November 5, 2020 8:29 pm

Most are refugees from poverty, poverty maintained by green policies in the 3rd world, eco colonialism/imperialism

Most are refugees from climate change POLICY

November 5, 2020 8:46 pm

Here in Michigan USA, there are climate refugees all over the place.
When the weather gets cold, they go to South Carolina, Florida, etc.
Not just our birds, people too !
Sometimes the people stay there permanently.
Only the birds always come back.
Yes, it’s true, cold weather causes climate refugees.

If we ever got the global warming promised here in Michigan, fewer friends and relatives would move “down south”. The Carolina’s are popular these days. Those who don’t go south for the winter, or move “down south” permanently. used to take a lot of vacations in warm places. Humans love warm weather, except ski bums, but I’m not sure they’re human.

Reply to  Richard Greene
November 6, 2020 2:30 am

I just watched “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” released in 1947.

A story centered around a hobo who lives in vacated mansions of the rich who seasonally migrate away from hot summers and cold winters…

History tells us that wealthy Romans migrated to pleasant locations away from cold and heat also…
As did royalty and wealthy persons throughout Europe, China and Japan.

Native Americans regularly moved settlements to take advantage of local climate changes.

It appears that we’ve had climate migrants for thousands of years, perhaps tens of thousands of years.

Flight Level
November 5, 2020 9:48 pm

Climate refugees are not really a myth. Countless EU and GB lads choose sunnier lands such as Spain, Portugal, Greece for their retirement. Escaping the romanticism of dark frisky frozen mornings and freezer snow storm nights.

Prior COVID we were also actively involved in transporting holiday crowds for precisely that purpose.

Take my words, I will gladly trade one single winter op for 100 walk-arounds and rotations in short sleeves shirt.

Be it said, winter is in reality a plague for those who have to endure it. This said, yes, count me in, I’m also a potential climate refugee if/when opportunity arises.

November 5, 2020 9:48 pm

You forget the blindingly obvious human greed factor.
Another “you couldn’t make it up” scenario, obvious in Britain, Germany and France are the permits to build where 1000 years of history should have taught us “just don’t do that”.

I can think of several disaster zones:-

London & the SE which is dropping in altitude thanks to a rising Scotland (the absence of weight of the ice sheets which used to cover it), leading to the huge flood risks in the flatlands close to the North sea, the moment a high tide combines with a deep north sea low pressure area.
London mitigated with the Thames barrage, but the risk remains for all those places vulnerable to this day for yet another 1953 style disaster, which WILL come, not IF but WHEN.

Paris which narrowly dodged a bullets in 2016 & 2018, because of totally crap management of the Seine & confluence with the Marne, sounds very much like the EU politicals and somerset all over.
Again a case of 1910, will happen again not IF but WHEN, (the level of the Seine reached 8.62m).

Or the Var river in Nice – Antibes and the hinterland where greedy developers have encouraged people to build in known catastrophic flood areas, – well we found out what happened only last month, when nature retakes its course..

In Germany the rhine – moselle valley is especially well known for disastrous flooding at the confluence of the two rivers of course, in Koblenz or other well known spots for the Meuse in Belgium …

“Major floods occurred in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005. It is well known that building practices are a major contributor to this trend due to the reduction of ground surface permeability as well as construction of buildings in flood prone areas”,
The AGW climate jerks – actually admit it.

Idem you can see all over Europe.

Stupid does as stupid is, but then let’s blame stupid on “climate change”.
A collective proxy blame game for millions in denial.

November 6, 2020 12:00 am

‘For example, when the UK experienced severe flooding in 2015, British government officials were quick to blame climate change.’

The UK has now experienced severe flooding, to record new levels, in all but 2 years since 2000. It has had summer flash floods as well as winter floods… it has had more damaging storms – and heatwaves.

The UK climate has clearly changed compared to the latter half of last century.

Flight Level
Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 12:32 am

To complete the picture, would you also have at hand recent statistics on the umber of those, mainly elderly retired, who died from cold due to skyrocket high energy prices ?

Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 12:40 am

Of course they are, They have stopped properly maintaining the river channels

Absolutely nothing to do with human caused WEATHER, because humans do not an cannot affect the weather.

And NO the UK climate is still the UK climate.. Nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

There is NO EVIDENCE that increased atmospheric CO2 causes any change in the weather or climate what so ever

And you KNOW you cannot produce any evidence

You are yet again making idiotic protestations without having a single bit of evidence to back up what you say.

Still waiting for the answers to two simple questions.

1… Do you have any empirical scientific evidence for warming by atmospheric CO2?

2… In what ways has the global climate changed in the last 50 years , that can be scientifically proven to be of human causation?

Answer them, or stop your panic-ridden chicken-little blubbering !!

Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 12:46 am

Sorry Griff, too many compounding factors to make your narrative that flooding = climate change work.

Climate change has nothing to do with river management policies, dredging, house building, runoff rates from urban development, flood barriers etc. All of these strongly impact flooding.

The only flooding factor “climate change” could affect is rainfall. If you want to link climate change to flooding , show us all the compelling evidence that rainfall has increased in the UK. It certainly hasn’t in England and Wales, there was a lurch up in Scotland over the period 1970 – 1985, but no trend after that. And all UK rainfall changes are pretty moderate %-wise and clearly shows signs of periodicity (most likely linked to AMO).

Rivers flood. That’s why they have things called “flood plains”.

Anyone who thinks flooding is an indicator of climate change is as dim as someone who thinks wild fires are indicators of climate change. Clutching onto second order or third order effects without being able to demonstrate the first order link smacks of desperation and propaganda. Its certainly not science, which is why not even the IPCC supports your views.

Rod Evans
Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 1:56 am

What has changed over the past 40 +years in the UK Griff, is not the weather or the climate, it is the authorities abandonment of their responsibilities to manage the flood alleviation practices. That period of abandonment, correlates very closely with the UKs period of being in the EEC/EU.
Now the UK has left the EU we can hope to restore some sense of balance and actual management of the major river and drainage systems here. Those flood protection systems used to be carefully controlled prior to the abandonment of dredging and clearing, mandated by EUs Environmental policy.
Emphasis on the mental in that word Environ-mental, Griff.

Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 2:13 am

Peak rainfall in the UK in the last two decades occurred around the turn of the century, and, if anything, shows a declining trend since then. However, the long term trend shows no significant change.

Nearly all flooding problems in the UK are associated with poor river management and poor drainage management, exacerbated by the inexorable elimination of old flood plains due to population pressures.

Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 2:18 am

Did England dissapear from the map and is now part of undersea world ??

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 4:41 am

Samuel Pepys wrote about floods in London in 1659 and 1663.. was that “climate Change (TM) too grief?

Climate believer
Reply to  griff
November 6, 2020 2:27 pm

“The UK has now experienced severe flooding, to record new levels, in all but 2 years since 2000. It has had summer flash floods as well as winter floods… it has had more damaging storms – and heatwaves.”

…….and Zeus was very angry with the people, and rained his vengeance down upon them….

When was this magical time when UK flooding was much friendlier? Gentle flooding, gentle lapping.
Remarkable rainfall totals over these 5 months (Aug-Dec): total for this period (EWP)=717mm (or ~170% of the long-term average). November in particular was exceptionally wet; with 203mm for the EWP, this represented some 220% of the average, and is the wettest November (and the second wettest any-month) in that series.

By November and through December, the Thames Valley from Vauxhall to Windsor resembled a ‘vast lake’. Oxford was standing in a ‘sea of water’, the Cherwell and Isis being several miles wide. At several places along the river, (e.g. Maidenhead, Reading, Ealing and Uxbridge), the principal corn fields were inundated by several feet of water.

Flooding extended to other areas in the southeast of England – Epsom, Dartford, Lewisham and Charlton all mentioned. On the North Kent railway, the valley of the Medway and the marshes along the Thames were one expanse of water for many miles. Parts of Chatham, Rochester and Stroud (all Kent) were also flooded. At Guildford, Chertsey, Woking and Battersea, the flood was several feet deep. Many other like reports across the region.


November 6, 2020 12:16 am

You should demand that the voices in your head at least look at the data griff:

Reply to  philincalifornia
November 6, 2020 1:26 am

and from 2001-2019

comment image

Griff is having a rabid panic attack/tanty about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING…..

…. except really bad watershed management as an integral part the greenie agenda.

Charles Nelson
November 6, 2020 12:52 am

How Dare You!
I am a climate refugee. I now live in a part of Australia where the average summertime temperature is 27˚C and the average winter temp is 19˚C.
I fled my homeland in N. Ireland where the average summertime temperature is 18˚C and the average winter temperature is 9˚C.
How Very Dare you!!!!!

Phil Rae
November 6, 2020 1:14 am

A little off-topic but I couldn’t help being amused by the contact details at the bottom provided for the upcoming events!!!

lived in Asia for more than 20 years, I’m quite used to the fusion of Chinese names with western-sounding names but some combinations are just not ideal.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Phil Rae
November 6, 2020 3:36 pm

Phil! Your comment really rubs me the wrong way!

Rich Davis
Reply to  Phil Rae
November 7, 2020 6:35 am

A bit more research leads me to believe that Caressa Kok is Dutch or Flemish (pronounced approximately like coke), not Singaporean Chinese as you may have been thinking.

I know, there’s no joke that can’t be spoiled by over-analysis.

November 6, 2020 1:23 am
Geoff Sherrington
November 6, 2020 1:27 am

There is much modern myth about the dangers of Lead Pb in water being ingested.
Sure, high quantities of ingested Lead have been known to cause ailments and death, for many decades. Trace lead claims are quite shaky. They were developed to get rid of Lead in petrol, partly. That worked, but it cost society a fortune in poorer fuel economy for millions of automobiles.
There should be a proper evaluation of alleged toxicity from trace Pb ingestion. Geoff S

November 6, 2020 4:43 am

I declare myself a climate refugee and seek asylum in Key West. Please send me a check to cover my expenses of moving from NH, buying a house in Key West and provide me with a car, Iphone, health care, food stamps, and a guaranteed income ASAP as I cannot stand the daily suffering I must endure here.

Tom Abbott
November 6, 2020 5:51 am

From the article: “I think the suggestion people moving a few miles down the road is “climate migration” is a little dubious.”

What is even more dubious is the assmption that humans are causing the Earth’s climate to change in a measureable way so as to cause people to be displaced.

Human-caused Climate Change is 100 percent assumptions. No evidence whatsoever. Bad weather is not evidence of anything other than bad weather. The Earth has always had bad weather and always will. Humans have nothing to do with it other than to observe it and live with it.

November 6, 2020 6:34 am

If I don’t like the weather, I can be a refugee in my own home?

Terry Shipman
November 6, 2020 7:50 am

In 1893 (or thereabouts) my grandfather bought a house on the bank of White River here in Arkansas. After tiring of the floods he tore it down in 1901 and rebuilt it high on a hill six miles away. In 1912 he felt secure enough to add a second story. I own the house today which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So I guess in 1901 he became a climate refugee due to flooding.

Al Miller
November 6, 2020 10:28 am

How dare you – lie to me about Klimate Change.
What a load of bollocks as the Brits would say!

November 6, 2020 11:03 am

If the author is correct, the serial incompetence of British river management authorities who failed to dredge the rivers is the true culprit, combined with heavy handed micromanagement from Brussels, not climate change.

The pattern appears to be: government manages something incompetently, disaster ensues, government blames “climate change”. Wash rinse repeat.

It’s become a convenient excuse for bureaucrats and politicians to constantly talk about how they’re “doing something” about it, while never bothering to actually do anything.

November 6, 2020 1:04 pm

How strange it is that the wealthy elite, while preaching the evils of a warmer climate, always seem to migrate towards warmer regions as they age. Leaving the poor to suffer in cold climates with unaffordable energy.

Dudley Horscroft
November 7, 2020 5:53 am

London averages approximately 106 rainy days each year and receives a total of 22.976 inches (583.6 millimeters) of precipitation annually. For Kenley, 6 km from Croydon, the annual average rainfall is 637.8 mm.
Unfortunately rainfall averages for Croydon are only given monthly – perhaps because Croydon Airport no longer exists~!! However, for New Addington, a suburb of Croydon, the wettest month was October 2020 which recorded 189.6m, nearly one third of the annual rainfall in 28 days!

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