The walls of Saifullah’s home in northern Jakarta are lined like tree rings, marking how high the floodwaters have reached each year -- some more than four feet from the damp dirt floor.
When the water gets too high, Saifullah, who like many Indonesians only uses one name, sends his family to stay with friends. He guards the house until the water can be drained using a makeshift pump. If the pump stops working, he uses a bucket or just waits until the water recedes.
“It’s a normal thing here,” Saifullah, 73, said. “But this is our home. Where should we go?”
As the world’s most rapidly sinking major city, Jakarta demonstrates how climate change is making more places uninhabitable. With an estimated one-third of the city expected to be submerged in the coming decades – in part because of the rising Java Sea – the Indonesian government is planning to move its capital some 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) northeast to the island of Borneo, relocating as many as 1.5 million civil servants.
It’s a huge undertaking and part of the mass movement of people that is expected to accelerate in the years ahead.
A staggering 143 million people will likely be uprooted over the next 30 years by rising seas, drought, searing temperatures and other climate catastrophes, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published Monday by the United Nations.
In Asia, governments are already scrambling to deal with it.
One in three migrants in the world today comes from Asia, which leads the world in the number of people being displaced by extreme weather, largely storms and flooding, according to the report. With rural villages emptying out and megacities like Jakarta at risk, scientists predict migration flows and the need for planned relocations will only grow.
“Under all global warming levels, some regions that are presently densely populated will become unsafe or uninhabitable,” the report said.
By one estimate, as many as 40 million people in South Asia may be forced to move over the next 30 years because of a lack of water, crop failure, storm surges and other disasters.
Rising temperatures are of particular concern, said Stanford University environmental scientist Chris Field, who chaired the U.N. report in previous years.