“Environmental Refugees”: Key debates and the contributions of geographers


Journal Article


Gill, N.


“Environmental Refugees”: Key debates and the contributions of geographers




Geography Compass

Vol (No), pp

4(7), 861-871


This article reviews the key current debates around the concept of environmental refugees, focusing on geography’s actual and potential contributions. First, although the most widely quoted estimate is between 200 and 250 million environmental refugees by 2050 (with some estimates greatly exceeding this), there is continuing disagreement about the scale of the challenge with numerous authors questioning available evidence. Geographical discussions about the reification of scale and the increasingly questioned division between nature and society might usefully inform these debates. Second, although the term ‘environmental refugees’ has achieved widespread usage, the degree to which ‘the environment’ can be singled out as a decisive cause of refugee movement has been questioned. Geographers have also provided some quantitative evidence that casts the relationship between environmental processes and refugees into doubt. Third, an important debate is taking place regarding the suitability of existing political refugee law for extension into the environmental domain. Many social scientists have expressed concern about the feasibility and desirability of extending the remit of existing international refugee protection. The article concludes by offering a series of future research directions that will allow geographers to continue to engage innovatively with this field.


Gill, N. (2010). “”Environmental Refugees”: Key debates and the contributions of geographers.” Geography Compass 4(7): 861-871. URL : http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-8198.2010.00336.x