Tag Archives: climate change
Moving Stories is a project that collects and presents the testimonies of people who move due to climate-linked disasters. These stories are a powerful and moving exploration of migration and displacement linked to climate change.
About the Moving Stories project
The voices of people who move in the context of environmental change are currently absent from the debate about how this issue is addressed. Moving Stories highlights these powerful, inspiring and often traumatic stories.
Testimonies from ten regions across the world have been compiled from local news reports, academic journals and interviews recorded by civil society groups. The stories highlight different kinds of movement affected by slow and rapid onset disasters.
The stories show us that movement linked to environmental change happens very differently in different parts of the world. The stories also reveal that individual decisions to move or stay vary widely even in response to the same disaster. There is no “typical” migrant.
Moving Stories demonstrate the reality of migration and environmental change. A number of stories show how people have used moving seasonally and temporarily, rather than permanently, as a way of adapting to changing environmental conditions. Several stories demonstrate that remittances from other migrants have increased the resilience of people affected by disasters.
Most importantly these testimonies give a human voice to this complex and controversial issue.
Moving Stories launch event
15th January, 12:00 – 13:30 (GMT+00) London and streamed live online
Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NJ
Moving Stories is being launched as part of a wider event on migration and climate change organised with the Overseas Development Institute, the Climate Change and Development Knowledge Network and COIN.
Sam Bickersteth – Chief Executive, Climate and Development Knowledge Network.
Professor Dominic Kniveton: Professor of Climate Science and Society, University of Sussex
Alex Randall: Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN).
Veena Ravichandran: Senior Research Advisor, Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).
Nick Rance: Producer, Television Trust for the Environment
“Previously the weather change was manageable. Now the weather in recent years has gotten worse. It has become more difficult to sail the sea, especially for those using rowing boats. The sea is not safe for us anymore.”
Betsina Petikotik, Lermatang, Fisherman, Tanimbar Island
Situated along the Eurasian and Australian tectonic plates, Indonesia has a long history of environmental disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Sumatra and other parts of the archipelago are affected by both the northeast and southwest monsoon and, as a result, suffer from regular floods and landslides. In addition to these environmental challenges, Indonesia is also experiencing the impacts of climate change. The islands of Java and Sumatra, together with Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, which is home to some 9.6 million people, are low lying, and rising sea levels leave these areas more vulnerable to coastal flooding. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank estimated the numbers of Indonesians at risk of coastal flooding by 2050 will be as high as 20.5 million. Rising temperatures will lead to a deterioration in air quality in Jakarta causing increased respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Rainfall changes have led to drought in some provinces, which in turn has reduced agricultural production. Equally, in some regions, rainfall has become excessive: torrential rain across Indonesia in January 2013 caused extreme challenges in Jakarta, where 20,000 were forced out of their homes. This rain is reportedly the heaviest since 2007. In parts of Indonesia deforestation has been widespread, exacerbating the effects of climate change and leaving populations more vulnerable to landslides when disasters strike.
“I live on the island of Kapoposang in Matiro, Ujung Village, which is in the Spermonde Archipelago, in South Sulawesi. I have been speargun fishing in these waters since I was a child but now I have noticed changes. Parts of the coral are white and algae has started growing on them. If I consider the coral reefs today there are not as many things to catch. There are fewer fish because the reef is broken. I can spend the whole day motoring around, paddling and swimming, I’ll try everything. Sometimes I don’t catch any fish and we’ll go a whole day without eating any. These days, the coral reefs are around Kapoposang are degrading. If the reefs continue to degrade then there won’t be any fish here. There won’t be anything left for us to do.”
Samysuddin, Speargun Fisherman, Kapoposang, Indonesia
The ability of Indonesia to withstand climatic changes relates as much to the socio-economic vulnerabilities of its population as to the nature and severity of environmental challenges. As the world’s fourth most populous nation, Indonesia continues to struggle with poverty and inequality despite significant improvements in the human development index. Economic progress is uneven across its provinces and some 30 million people still live below the national poverty threshold. In terms of democratic governance, improvements have been seen since the sectarian violence of past years.
In Indonesia there is a long history of responding to economic, social, or environmental adversity through both temporary or permanent migration. Indonesia provides a significant pool of labour migrants, with about 6 million working abroad, particularly in more rapidly growing Asian economies and in the Middle East. Within the country, rural-urban movement, both temporary and permanent, is significant, with western Java a common destination. However, with Jakarta expected to face multiple impacts of climate change in the years ahead, internal migration may shift to other urban areas less at risk, including other islands in the archipelago nation.
When: Monday 14th October, 2pm
Where: Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, London
Format: Round table discussion / workshop
Book: By email
Millions of people are already using migration as a way of improving their livelihoods. Increasingly people are using migration as a way of responding to the impacts of climate change. Can and should this existing trends be harnessed as a form of climate change adaptation?
The event look at the following questions:
- what might this migration look like?
- where might it happen?
- what are the legal and ethical implications?
- what should civil society, governments and international agencies do?
This is a small discussion event. Participants should expect to share their experience and opinions.
Who should attend:
- people working for development and humanitarian organisations
- people working in climate change and environmental organisations
- people working in civil society, charities, relevant government department and international agencies
- academics and students working on in related fields
When:Monday 14th October
Where: Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, London
Format: Round table discussion / workshop
Book: By email
The Green Party in the UK recently came out in support of more open and humane immigration policy. Their stance aims to challenge the growing anti-migrant policies and rhetoric of the other main political parties. However the Green Party’s new position has been attacked by some of their own members, who argue that many party members are concerned that “a high level of net immigration” into the UK makes protecting the environment harder.
There are good reasons that green parties (in any country) should support open and humane immigration policies, beyond the need to challenge the anti migrant rhetoric of the other parties. Green parties and organisaitons must recognies that migration is one the most powerful tools we have for coping with climate change. This is a clear challenge to the greens who support tighter controls on immigration.
1. Migration can increases resilience to the impacts of climate change. Millions of people – mostly in developing countries – have their livelihoods destroyed every year by climate -linked disasters like floods and hurricanes. Many of these areas also have extensive out migration. When a disaster hits, this existing out migration has some positive consequences. When people migrate out of these areas they usually move in order to find work. Most migrants send money home to their families. This flow of money called remittances has become a fairly large part of many economies. It makes up about 10% of the Philippines’ GDP, for example. When a disaster does strike a family with migrant workers abroad will continue to receive a steady flow of remittances, when their own local livelihoods have been destroyed (at least temporarily) by the disaster. Having household members working abroad has become a very important way for some places to increase their ability to survive the immediate aftermath of climate linked disasters. In many places remittances have become informal disaster relief funds. Developed countries have a responsibility to allow this kind of movement. Green parties and organisations should support developed country governments in allowing this kind of movement as it clearly helps vulnerable developing countries cope with climate change impacts.
2. Many people are moving to find work as their livelihoods are degraded by the impacts of climate change. For many people this is the only available way of adapting to climate change. Patterns of seasonal and circular movement are increasingly becoming ways for people to maintain household income as climate change adversely affects their livelihood. For example, farmers - especially in dry-land areas – may move temporarily to find non-farm work during periods of drought. Farmers may also move to other farming areas that are less affected by adverse conditions like water stress, then return if and when conditions improve. Most of this movement is short distance and internal. However, more open immigration policies would allow this movement to become increasingly international if people needed to move further in order to find alternative work.
3. Remittances can also become an important form of climate change adaptation funding. Money sent home by migrants to their families is increasingly being invested in projects and activities that help those families adapt to climate change. This doesn’t mean the money is invested in the kind of mega-projects that we might think of as climate adaptation like building sea defenses. Rather the money is often invested adapting farming practices so that communities can continue farming in hotter or drier conditions. For example remittances have been invested in crop switching, the process of moving from growing one crop to another in response to changing environmental conditions. This usually requires some upfront capital. There are situations where finding this has been made possible the inflow of remittances. Remittances are also increasingly being used for investment in small scale water storage to increase a faming community’s ability to cope with water stress.
Political parties that are worried about the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable people must recognise that many people are using migration as a way of surviving climate change. Their stance on immigration must reflect this.
Myth buster. New briefing picks apart the myth and reality of migration and displacement linked to climate change
A number of myths have emerged about how climate change will influence the movement of people. There are connections between climate change and the movement of people. However these connections are not always obvious and the way the connections are described in the media is not always accurate. Our new myth buster looks at some of the common misunderstanding and explains what we do and don’t know about migration and climate change.
This week the Guardian has been running a major series on “climate refugees” about the village of Newtok in Alaska, which faces an imminent threat to its existence from erosion.
The term “climate refugee” is problematic for a number of reasons. The first being that people who are facing movement do not like the term. The word “refugee” brings to mind a number of (not always accurate) images: tented camps, long lines of people walking, dangerous boat crossings. People facing the prospect moving hope that they will have some choice in the timing and circumstances of their movement and that when they arrive they will find work and become active members of their new communities. Their hope is that they will move with dignity.
President Anote Tong of Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific, told Australia’s ABC Radio that the people of Kiribati do not want to leave as refugees but as skilled migrants. Similarly, Ursula Rakova, a campaigner from the Carteret Islands is highly critical of the “climate refugee” narrative: “Our plan is one in which we remain as independent and self-sufficient as possible. We wish to maintain our cultural identity and live sustainably wherever we are.”
Apart from people’s own rejection of the “climate refugee” term there are also several other problems. It’s clear that there are connections between climate change and the movement of people, but the connections are not as clear as the “climate refugee” narrative suggests. The phrase conjures images of large numbers of people moving en masse over long distances and crossing international borders and possibly continents. It seems unlikely that climate change will produce this kind of human movement.
What seems more likely is that climate change might reinforce existing trends in short-term, short distance migration. For example, as subsistence farmers find it increasingly difficult to make a living in rural areas they may move to nearby cities to find work. Whole towns or villages will not move together: in fact, families may not even move together. Far more likely is that one or two household members will move, find work elsewhere and send money home to their community. This statement collected by the EACH-FOR research project from a farmer in Hueyotlipan, Mexico gives a sense of this kind of movement: “Times have changed … the rain is coming later now, so we produce less. The only solution is to go away, at least for a while. Each year I’m working for three to five months in Wyoming. That’s my main source of income.”
Another problem is that the phrase implies that it is easy to untangle the different causes of someone’s movement – that we might be able to pick out a group of people who have moved solely because of climate change. This is very misleading. Even when climate change has contributed to someone’s decision to move many other factors are often as, or more, important. This statement from a Somali farmer in a Ugandan refugee camp gives a clear sense of how multiple factors cause someone to move: “And since there was the war, we did not receive any support from the government. Therefore, there are combined factors that made us suffer: droughts and war. If war did not exist, then we might have been able to stay, but now that the land is looted, there is no way for us to claim it.”
The “climate refugee” narrative leads us away from other vital questions about the connection between climate change and migration: the first being how we protect growing cities. As climate change reinforces the factors pushing people out of the countryside, people will move into areas exposed to new climate-related risks in cities. This raises huge questions about urban planning, infrastructure and how cities plan to deal with the effects of climate change. There is also the possibility that climate change, rather than being a driver for new movement might actually prevent people from moving. Moving to find work is one of the key ways people are coping with falling incomes in rural areas. But moving requires resources, and as people become poorer, moving becomes harder. Climate change could in fact trap people in dangerous locations.
We need a new narrative that helps us address these vital questions, and which the people who are actually moving feel positive about. We need a new narrative in which we frame migration as a way for people to adapt to climate. Rather than being seen as a negative consequence of climate change, we need to describe moving in dignity as a way for some people to survive.
The Sahel region is highly dependent on agriculture for livelihoods and the wider economy. Agriculture is almost entirely rain fed, dependent upon a 3-4 month rainy season that refills lakes and the rivers which, in turn, irrigate crops. Annual rainfall is highly variable, some studies argue that the concept of ‘normal’ annual rainfall is almost meaningless in the Sahel. As well as erratic rainfall a number of other factors play an important part in creating the vulnerabilities of the people who live in the Sahel. Over the past half century a combination of land degradation, population growth and misplaced environmental and development policies have contributed to vulnerability. This vulnerability has in turn shaped patterns of migration and displacement. However, the changing climate is only one among a number of factors.
“Migration has now become an inevitable method of adaptation for us … As a means of survival for us and our animals, we are forced to continuously migrate despite all the risks involved. This is our form of adaptation. We have always mastered it, but if nothing is done to ensure the safety of our space and activities, we risk, one day, being forced to abandon our way of life and join the swelling ranks of the unemployed in the city.”
Hindu Oumarou Ibrahim, Peul Mbororo of Chad
Worsening environmental conditions in the Sahel have had a number of impacts on mobility. Historically, droughts have triggered massive displacement. The long drought of the “desiccation of the Sahel” that took place during the 70’s and 80’s created a large scale movement of people. This was primarily internal rather than cross border, and generally from the North to South of countries. It also created extensive rural to urban migration within countries. Where cross border movement did happen it tended to be from the landlocked Sahelian countries to the coastal countries.
However the connection between climate change and drought are not simple. The connections between drought and human movement is not simple either. Drought is often the result of natural variations in weather, however these variations are dangerously intensified by climate change. So while it is impossible to state that climate change caused a particular drought, it also not the case that climate change has no effect. The current understanding is that drought – including in the Sahel – is made more likely by human induced climate change.
“I crossed the border with my animals, my donkeys, my children and my wife. I traveled to Timbuktu crossed the river and came down to Burkina. I walked every day until sunet and after I would go to bed. The journey took three months. “
Malian man, in Burkina Faso
Further, the effect of drought on movement not simple. Moving usually requires financial resources and as income from farming falls, households have less money with which to move. During the severe drought in the Sahel region during 83-85 there was widespread displacement. However in Mali mobility actually decreased. Households did not have the resources to move, and so stayed where they were inspite of worsening conditions. This is an example of how a changing environment can in fact lead to less mobility, trapping vulnerable people in high-risk areas.
Encroaching deserts are threatening much of Africa’s arable land, if trends continue two thirds of arable land could be lost by 2025. The Sahel is particularly vulnerable to encroaching desert, this combined with drought and more perennial water scarcity is threatening livelihoods, the UNFP estimates the the 2011 sahel drought left 11m people without enough to eat. The 2012 current food crisis impacted on 18m people and left 1m children malnourished. This year the UN is again calling for $1.6 bn in humanitarian aid (the same figure as 2012) as 10.3 m face the risk of going hungry in 2013. This warning comes whilst the region is still in the grips of hunger.
The testimonies in this article are taken from the IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Migration and the Refugees International video Sahel: Malian Refugees and Hosts Hit Hard by Crises
Displacement, Migration, and Climate Change: the Discussion at COP18. Yale Climate and Energy Institute.
“At COP18, climate-induced migration was not a major point on the official agendas of the various negotiating tracks, however one side event on December 3rd, 2012 chose to focus on this issue in depth. Sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the event highlighted recent research on climate-induced migration and discussed possible strategies to confront the challenges it imposes.”
The Many Faces of Climate Displacement, Refugees International blog
Alice Thomas of Refugees International writes … “As manager of the Bacon Center for the Study of Climate Displacement at Refugees International, I had come to Mali to assess the needs of hundreds of thousands of Malians, who were facing not only extreme weather, but a deadly combination of weather and war. “
Call For Papers: Special Issue of Refuge on environmentally induced displacement.
This special issue will explore the phenomenon of environmentally induced displacement (EID). From climate change to extractive industries, from ‘natural’ disasters to increased urbanization, from conservation to mega-projects, landscapes and peoples’ place on them are being transformed at an unprecedented scale across the globe.
“For thousands of years, Arctic peoples have migrated in response to changing environmental conditions. But today climate change is putting unprecedented pressure on those indigenous communities.”
“On January 30, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement will explore the relationship between climate change and population movements in the Arctic through three recent case studies.”