Energy & Sustainability See Inside Casualties of Climate Change: Sea-level Rises Could Displace Tens of Millions Shifts in rainfall patterns and shorelines will contribute to mass migrations on a scale never before seen By Alex de Sherbinin, Koko Warner and Charles Ehrhart Mozambique Flood Extents (flooding); Bradfield Lyon IRI/Earth Institute, Columbia University; Rainfall data from Global Precipitation Climatology Center (GPCC) and IRI Data Library (drought) Since the beginning of recorded time, climate-forced migrations have reshaped civilization. Four thousand years ago a prolonged drought and the resulting famine in Canaan drove Jacob and his sons to Egypt, setting the stage for the famous exodus led by Moses. Three millennia later a prolonged dry period and lack of grazing lands helped to push Mongol armies out of Central Asia as far west as Europe, where many settled and intermarried. And in the 20th century the American Dust Bowl, an ecological catastrophe precipitated by drought and compounded by bad land-management policies, displaced 3.5 million people from the Midwest. Today this age-old story has a new twist. We are entering an era marked by rapid changes in climate brought on by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Anticipated changes include higher rainfall variability, greater frequency of extreme events (such as droughts and floods), sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and long-term shifts in temperature and precipitation—any of which can profoundly disrupt the ecosystems that supply our basic needs. In our more densely settled world, people may be forced from their homes in numbers never seen before. This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now! Select an option below: Buy Digital Issue Customer Sign In *You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com. Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access. ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2013 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.