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07 Nov 19 | News

How will climate change affect future migration?

LISER researchers shed light in a presentation at Climate Migration Workshop

How will long-term climate change affect human mobility over the course of the 21st century? This question has been the source of repeated and controversial statements and has gained unprecedented attention in public debates as global warming prospects for the coming decades get worse.

On October 18th, LISER researcher, Frédéric Docquier, was invited to present at the Climate Migration Workshop held in the Paris offices of the Agence Française de Développement. The workshop gathered 4 speakers and about 30 participants who have a direct interest in climate change topics. The research stems from needing to learn more about the effect of extreme weather shocks and long-term climate change (rising temperature, sea level, and frequency of extreme weather events) on human mobility.

The paper presented by Frédéric entitled “Climate Change, Inequality and Human Migration” co-authored by Michal Burzynski, Christoph Deuster and Jim de Melo, shows that climate change will reinforce income inequality between rich and poor countries, and between urban and rural regions.  It creates conditions that are conducive to increasing urbanization and international migration. Depending on the climate scenario, it predicts that rising temperature and sea level will lead to voluntary and forced movements of 200 to 300 million climate migrants during the 21st century. More than 80% of climate migrants will move internally (within their region of birth or from rural to urban regions) while only 20% will opt for long-haul migration to an OECD destination. Under migration laws and policies, international migration is a costly adaptation strategy of last resort. Climate-related conflicts can significantly increase these international migration responses.

The workshop organised by AFD, FERDI and LISER demonstrates the increasing importance of this critical issue.  Climate change is an additional factor that calls for better coherence between development and environmental policies. Given people’s difficulty to emigrate from the poorest countries, preventive measures are needed to encourage climate change adaptation, local disaster-risk reduction, sustainable development in general, and urban sustainable development in particular. The results also illustrate the difficulty to define a status of climate refugee, as more than 80% of forcibly displaced persons will move internally, and more than 90% of international climate-related movements are voluntary (caused by climate-related deterioration of economic conditions).

The research has been conducted within the cross-departmental Research Programme on ‘Crossing Borders’ of LISER. In the coming years, the Crossing Borders team will keep on investigating the root drivers of future migration to help policy-makers to anticipate future movements and manage them effectively. The papers presented at the AFD-FERDI-LISER conference will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Demographic Economics in the Spring of 2020.