LE BOURGET, France — The two-week United Nations climate conference outside Paris that drew to an end on Saturday focused on many of the physical dangers associated with climate change: extreme weather, severe drought, the warming of oceans, rain forest destruction and disruptions to the food supply.
But global warming has already had another effect — the large-scale displacement of people — that has been an ominous, politically sensitive undercurrent in the talks and side events here.
Scientists have said that climate change can indirectly lead to migration by setting off violent conflicts. Scholars have made this connection since at least 2007, when they cited climate change as a reason for the war in Darfur, Sudan.
A drought that lasted from 2006 to 2011 in much of Syria has been cited as a factor in the long-running civil war there, fueling a mass migration to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, but also to Europe, Canada and, in small measure, the United States.
Europe, in particular, is experiencing the largest influx of migrants since World War II — Germany alone has already taken in nearly a million this year. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, told world leaders on Nov. 30 that climate change could “destabilize entire regions and start massive forced migrations and conflicts over natural resources.”
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