Climate change and migration: Improving methodologies to estimate flows




Kniveton, D.
Schmidt-Verkerk, K.
Smith, C.
Black, R.


Climate change and migration: Improving methodologies to estimate flows




IOM (International Organization for Migration)


The consequences of climate change, including changes in the frequency and violence of extreme weather events and changing precipitation patterns are expected to have large impacts on people’s livelihoods, especially in poor and vulnerable rural societies. In many of these societies migration has already been a livelihood strategy for generations. Shocks and stresses evoked by the consequences of a changing climate that threaten people’s livelihoods are therefore also likely to have impacts on their migratory behaviour. Migration might increase as people need to search for a living elsewhere. But it might as well decrease as fewer people can afford to move. It is also conceivable that migrants choose different destinations that they perceive as more appropriate for their changing needs. Despite the growing awareness of the nexus between climate change and migration the subject has not been explored empirically in a way that generates conclusive results. In this, we outline the key elements of natural and human-induced climate change of potential relevance to migration; discuss the current state of the debate about the relationship between climate change and migration and describe approaches with which to further our understanding of climate change-related migration. Climate change and variability can occur as a result of natural processes and due to human activity. Human induced climate change over the last century arises primarily from the alteration of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases by the burning of fossil fuels and change of land use. Volcanic eruptions and variations in solar activity are the major processes causing natural climate change over the same timescales. The consensus view, as expressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that an increase in greenhouse gases brought about by human activity is the main culprit for climate change since the mid 20th century. Predicting future climate change is inherently uncertain due to a lack of information on known climate system processes, a lack of knowledge of all of the climate processes that affect the climate system and the chaotic nature of the atmosphere. The IPCC provide comprehensive assessments of the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The latest batch of IPCC reports, released in February 2007, predicts temperature increases throughout the globe, with these being greatest over land and high latitudes in the northern hemisphere in the winter. On the continents, warming is projected to increase from the coasts to the interiors and be typically larger in arid compared to moist regions…


Kniveton, D., et al. (2008). Climate change and migration: Improving methodologies to estimate flows. Geneva, IOM (International Organization for Migration).