It is instructive to dig a little deeper into the now discredited claim that there would be 50 million environmental refugees by 2010.
It appears that the assertion was originally made by Professor Norman Myers of Oxford University as far back as 1997 when according to this précis (at the top of the list):
…at least 50 million people could be at risk through increased droughts and other climate dislocations.”
So, contrary to some of the statements that were used by the likes of Yvo de Boer, that there could be as many as 50 million, Professor Myers’ prediction was in fact that there would be at least 50 million who could be at risk.
Considering he made this prediction in 1997, it is worth looking at the United Nations’ own figures of how many refugees have applied for asylum in industrial nations over the last decade – in fact the numbers have nearly halved since 2001. Unfortunately, I cannot find a comparable figure for 1997 – but it might reasonably be expected that this flood of 50 million refugees would turn up in these statistics when there are currently fewer than 400,000 claims for asylum in industrialised countries every year. In fact, the numbers of asylum seekers have fallen significantly.
To be fair, Professor Myers wrote that many of the refugees would be “internally displaced”, but then, how does he explain the fact that the top six fastest growing cities in China are within the region he identified as being a likely source of environmental refugees?
Professor Myers, it seems, has made a career out of amazing, yet not easy to prove predictions. One of these was that we could expect one species to become extinct every day. It is this prediction that has helped him to become, according to Time Magazine, a hero of the environment, but actual figures supporting his prediction are hard to come by.
It appears now that the UN is washing its hands of Professor Myers’ prediction about 50 million refugees by 2010. But up until recently, they were actively spruiking the claims from the very highest levels. The question they should be asking is how did they come to accept the figures in the first place?