Monday, October 10, 2011

Nansen Conference 2011 Report Available

The final report from the Nansen Conference, "Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century" in Oslo, Norway, June 5-7, 2011 is now available:

The main Nansen Conference website is still

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Afghan climate refugees or not?

Will people migrate as a result of Afghanistan's drought? See which fortunately does not try to invoke climate change or frame the situation as being the harbinger to come of "climate (change) refugees".

Instead, the article nicely describes the various factors such as "Lower harvests due to drought, and rising food prices world-wide". Root causes are also hinted at, in terms of "The Taliban and other insurgents have been making strong gains in recent years in the drought-affected areas, particularly in the north-east, which is likely to affect the delivery of food supplies to those who need them".

Perhaps many Afghans will migrate as a result of the drought. But let's not be too quick to blame climate change or to call them "climate (change) refugees". Fortunately, the BBC's reporting does not do so. More media work of this nature would reduce the rhetoric and inaccuracies surrounding the topic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Climate Induced Migration from Bangladesh to India

New article published

Climate Induced Migration from Bangladesh to India: Issues and Challenges

Architesh Panda*


Environmental crisis along with the increasing impacts of climate change in Bangladesh has become an important cause of cross-border migration to India. Such movement of population in Indo-Bangladesh context will generate a range of destabilizing socio-political, economic and environmental impacts in future. This paper focuses on climate variability and changes as a reason for the continued migration of people from Bangladesh to India and attempts to understand the vulnerability of people using the concepts of nested vulnerability. This paper argues that the vulnerability of specific individuals and communities is not geographically bounded but, rather, is connected at different scales. Among the many causes of vulnerability of people, cross border migration due to climate change might increase the susceptibility of people to climate change in both the countries. Without adequate bilateral and multilateral institutional arrangements in place to protect of climate migrants, it will pose greater risks to India.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Drought cause or not?

News reports indicate that "War and drought in Somalia are leading an unprecedented number of people to flee across the border into Kenya". Surely the issue is that war (and lack of governance) have undermined people's abilities to cope with drought? That is, the drought per se is not the cause of migration. Instead, it is people's lack of ability to deal with a drought--with the lack of ability being due to human factors only, with no climate-related connections.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nansen Principles

The Chairperson's summary and Nansen Principles are now available from the Nansen Conference website (a PDF file).

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Kivalina: A Climate Change Story" By Christine Shearer

Kivalina: A Climate Change Story
By Christine Shearer

In 2008, a small Alaska Native village named Kivalina sued fossil fuel companies for destabilizing their homeland and distorting the information on climate change: Kivalina v. ExxonMobil et al. Through muckraking, this book looks at the history of corporations and science, fossil fuels and power, leading up to the legal showdown and the village's fight for survival.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Climate Change, and Migration

A compilation of references published by CICERO on islands (especially SIDS) and climate change, with links to migration, is now available at (15 kb in PDF).

We hope that this will be a useful starting point for understanding the potential climate change and migration challenges facing SIDS with analogies for other islands, coastal areas, and landlocked locations.

Nansen Conference in Oslo

Speeches and abstracts from the Nansen Conference "Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century" in Oslo , 5-7 June, are now available. See and click on "Presentations and Abstracts" in the left-hand menu. The declaration of the Nansen Principles will be coming soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Precautionary Principle and Climate change Migration

The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. In some legal systems such as the law of the European Union, the application of the precautionary principle has been made a statutory requirement. There is a  considerable amount uncertainty associated with the science of climate change. This uncertainty multiplies when we try to understand the implications of climate change on migration. How important is scientific uncertainty, for any concrete action ? 

At the backdrop of an UN report warning 50m environmental refugees by end of decade, Achim Steiner, UN Under-secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP reflects in an article in the Guardian called Climate migration will not wait for scientific certainty on global warming. He says
"Although reviewing science is an integral part of knowledge generation, we should not allow the critique to paralyze emerging science on climate change from reaching society – especially when the lives and livelihoods of considerable numbers of people are at risk."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future

The Economist Reviews Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future by Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron and Meera Balarajan. The book as the Economist point out provides a perspective on costs and benefits of migration. The review titled The future of mobility, observes that the book traces the historicity of human migration as well as the state of modern migration. One of the startling observations on the book made by the reviewer is :
"The authors knock down wild predictions that climate change will create 200m refugees by mid-century. Global warming may cause more frequent floods, but most flood victims go home when the waters recede. The authors cite as evidence the deluges that hit Mozambique in 2000 and America’s Gulf Coast in 2005".
This is contrary to the popular discourse on climate change induced migration. The observation that people return to their homes post disasters is valid. According to IPCC terminologies such sort of adaptation is termed 'seasonal retreat'. However, there are socio -- ecological limits to adaptation that drive people out resulting in permanent retreat. The Guardian Video below captures this dichotomy nicely.

 At this stage, quantitative projections of displaced people/migrants/refugees are not robust enough because of complexities involved in modeling multiple factors that result in migration. We are yet to read the book to completely understand the rationale behind the observations made.  Your views on the book and the issues raised are solicited.

Read the full review The future of mobility 

Climate Change and Migration: Some important journals

Traditionally there have been quite a number of journals exploring issues related to migration, displacement, refugees etc. Last decade has seen a drastic increase in the number journals on climate change. Below we list some important journals exploring the interface between climate change and migration.

Event: Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century

The conference will primarily  focus on vulnerability, resilience and capacity for adaptation of communities in areas that are prone to disaster due to climate change, the protection of displaced people, and promotion of action to help prevent or manage displacement. The conference also aims to provide up-to-date projections with regard to drivers of displacement such as drought, floods, storms and sea-level rise.

Dates: 6-7 June 2011  
Location: Oslo (Oslo), Norway  

For more details about Nansen Conference contact Kaja Haldorsen or visit the conference website.

Research Questions

Key issues explored through this study can be broadly classified as follows:

Terminology/Definitions and Methodologies
  • Challenges associated with definitions and terminologies
  • Given the persistent lack of data and frequent questions raised on often quoted estimates, what are the factors that constrain the collection of data for climate change induced migration?
  • What are methodological approaches that have been employed so far in the literature; what are the learning’s and new challenges that have emerged?
Conceptualizing Climate Change Migration
  • How climate change is an additional driver for an already existing migration behavior and how it may induce new trends
  • What are the primary and secondary drivers behind the decision to migrate and what are the inter and cross linkages between them
  • What is that threshold that makes migration a considered option; whether it is forced or a voluntary option?
  • How is a migration destination selected and what are the factors that guide these choices
  • What are the specific issues and concerns related to different types of movements in time and space: like permanent, seasonal, internal , trans-boundary etc ?
  • Why do some communities choose migration while some adapt in other ways; what are the push and pull factors; is it seasonal or temporary  or permanent
  • What are the implications for adaptive capacity of source and receiving communities; livelihoods; entitlement to natural, economic and social capital; human security etc? 
Contextualizing Climate Change Migration
  • Physical: understanding the role of geographic and climate attributes in inducing migration.
  • Environmental: Climate change itself does not displace or move people from one place to another; instead it produces environmental effects and exacerbates current vulnerabilities that make it difficult for people to survive where they are. The study will aim to explore this nexus by understanding the impacts of environmental and climate change on migration
  • Social: role of social capital w.r.t kin structure, community networks, local institutions, livelihood opportunities etc. in influencing  the decision to migrate or stay
  • Cultural: understanding the role of cultural factors, lifestyle, identity elements, ethnicity etc.  in the decision to move or stay
  • Economic: how does economic status and climate change impact on livelihoods pre-dispose some groups to migration
  • Political:  What are the different international and political issues; how are the governments, governance structures, legal and institutional frameworks, international bodies like the UNFCCC prepared to address the implications and process of climate change induced migration

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