Friday, May 27, 2011

Climate Change and Migration: Developing a Future Research Agenda

It has been long recognized that changes in the environment can influence human movement patterns and behavior. Human migration in response to change in environment has been one of the considered strategies of the vulnerable households, to move away from the area of risk[1]. For communities like nomads and pastoralists, seasonal movement is an essential part of their livelihood. However in the last few decades, the international community has slowly begun to recognize the linkages and implications of climate change on human mobility, as it is increasingly being anticipated that the impacts of climate change will induce and increase such movements.

The popular literature on climate change migration tends to revolve around themes of environment/climate refugees, forced migration, migration as an adaptation strategy etc. These terms are often used in literature without any agreement on definitions and adequate conceptual explication. Also most of literature tends to ignore that the linkages between climate change and migration are ‘complex and unpredictable’ along with being contextual and geographic in nature. There are a number of estimates on climate change migration which implicitly assume that there is a direct link between climate change and migration. However, they may just be an indicative of the number of people who are likely to be at risk from adverse impacts of climate change rather, than those who are likely to migrate[2]. Thus, the literature on explicit linkages between climate change and migration is very limited and supported with very little reliable evidence. Also, there are significant gaps in conceptual and contextual understanding of nature of migration and its various dimensions as a whole.

Thus there is huge gap in literature with respect to conceptualizing and contextualizing the relationship between climate change and migration. The first aspect refers to the knowledge gaps and the need to understand and detail out conceptual issues associated with climate and migration such as terminology/definitions, linkages, drivers, thresholds, implications, data requirements, methodological challenges and other complexities associated. The second aspect contextualizing refers to, understanding climate change and migration debate not in isolation but holistically. It refers to the nexus of migration, climate change, environment, social development, along with governance and policy perspectives at different scales ranging from international to local. Addressing these, would give the much needed impetus to address the challenges associated with this issue.

[1] Mc Leman, R. A. & Smith. B.,2006. Migration as an adaptation to climate change, Climate Change, 76. Pp. 31-53
[2] Tacoli, C. 2009. Crisis or Adaptation? Migration and Climate Change in context of High Mobility. Prepared for Expert group Meeting on Population Dynamics and Climate Change, UNFPA and IIED. 24-25 June 2008

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