Published on Sustainable Cities

LDC Migration and Climate Change

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Originally posted on Matthew Kahn's personal blog:

At the World Bank yesterday, I learned about this impressive project. While there are a lot of papers to choose from at this website,  the "big picture" is sketched below in the report's Executive Summary.

The following is a direct quote:

"This report considers migration in the context of environmental change over the next 50 years.

The scope of this report is international: it examines global migration trends, but also internal migration trends particularly within low-income countries, which are often more important in this context.

The report has the following key conclusions:

  • Environmental change will affect migration now and in the future, specifically through its influence on a range of economic, social and political drivers which themselves affect migration. However, the range and complexity of the interactions between these drivers means that it will rarely be possible to distinguish individuals for whom environmental factors are the sole driver (‘environmental migrants’). Nonetheless there are potentially grave implications of future environmental change for migration, for individuals and policy makers alike, requiring a strategic approach to policy which acknowledges the opportunities provided by migration in certain situations.
  • Powerful economic, political and social drivers mean that migration is likely to continue regardless of environmental change. People are as likely to migrate to places of environmental vulnerability as from these places. For example, compared to 2000, there may be between 114 and 192 million additional people living in floodplains in urban areas in Africa and Asia by 2060, in alternative scenarios of the future. This will pose a range of challenges to policy makers.
  • The impact of environmental change on migration will increase in the future. In particular, environmental change may threaten people’s livelihoods, and a traditional response is to migrate. Environmental change will also alter populations’ exposure to natural hazards, and migration is, in many cases, the only response to this. For example, 17 million people were displaced by natural hazards in 2009 and 42 million in 2010 (this number also includes those displaced by geophysical events).
  • The complex interactions of drivers can lead to different outcomes, which include migration and displacement. In turn, these types of outcomes can pose more ‘operational’ challenges or more ‘geopolitical’ challenges. There are powerful linkages between them. Planned and well-managed migration (which poses operational challenges) can reduce the chance of later humanitarian emergencies and displacement.
  • Environmental change is equally likely to make migration less possible as more probable. This is because migration is expensive and requires forms of capital, yet populations who experience the impacts of environmental change may see a reduction in the very capital required to enable a move.
  • Consequently, in the decades ahead, millions of people will be unable to move away from locations in which they are extremely vulnerable to environmental change. To the international community, this ‘trapped’ population is likely to represent just as important a policy concern as those who do migrate. Planned and well-managed migration can be one important solution for this population of concern.
  • Preventing or constraining migration is not a ‘no risk’ option. Doing so will lead to increased impoverishment, displacement and irregular migration in many settings, particularly in low elevation coastal zones, drylands and mountain regions. Conversely, some degree of planned and proactive migration of individuals or groups may ultimately allow households and populations to remain in situ for longer."

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