Tag Archives: climate change
A new of series of maps have just been released which help illustrate the complex relationships between climate change, rainfall, livelihoods, water and migration. The maps are part of the Where the Rain Falls project, a collaboration involving CARE International and the University of the United Nations. The research looks at how migration is becoming a common adaptive response to water stress caused by changing rain fall patterns. Participants in the survey element of the research consistently pointed to migration as risk management strategy. The conclusions reinforce existing research on migration in response to environmental change. People often migrate seasonally rather than permanently; people move in order to find non-farm work; and one or two household members tend to migrate diversifying household income.
From the Earth Institute blog post: The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) has worked closely with CARE and the United Nations University to develop a series of maps illustrating results from case studies in eight countries for the Where the Rain Falls project. The project aims to illustrate the relationship between rainfall variability and human vulnerability in the context of a changing climate, livelihoods, and migration as a strategic response.
Under the conditions that prevail in Same District, changes in rainfall patterns translate directly into impacts on crop and livestock production and food security. Water scarcity is the most commonly identified problem by the residents of this area, and research participants consistently identified drought as the biggest threat to their livelihoods. Given the dearth of alternative local off-farm employment opportunities, migration is a very important risk management strategy for households in these villages. Migration patterns vary across the three villages, but seasonal migrants outnumber those migrating for more than six months. Although the largest migration flows seem to be to another rural area, rural-to-urban migration is also seen, with nearly one-third of survey respondents identifying Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, as the most common destination.
This new paper in the Journal of Human Security looks critically at the prevailing narrative around climate change and conflict in Bangladesh. The paper questions the assumptions of the common narrative which suggests that climate change will lead to human displacement, which will then lead to various kinds of violent conflict. In this paper Ben Saul of the University of Sydney Faculty of Law tests these assumptions against the available evidence. The broad conclusion of the paper is that the popular narrative is not supported by evidence. A narrative that suggests direct causal links between climate change, displacement and then conflict ignores crucial factors, especially the role of human agency.
From the introduction: This article interrogates whether, and to what extent, climate change-related movement in Bangladesh may give rise to two commonly suggested security risks: transnational security risks in relation to neighbouring countries; and domestic security risks of radicalisation, and social conflict over resources. This article is a modest effort to ground consideration of the links between climate change displacement and security threats in a concrete case study of a particular situation, including through a review of the expert national and regional literature and qualitative field research in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. In doing so, it aims to test the prevailing assumptions in the global literature against social realities on the ground, acknowledging security risks where they exist, and deflating those that bear little substance.
The UN High Commission for Refugees has released a new report looking at legal protection issues around relocation. The report examines some of the challenges involved in protecting people whose relocation is linked to climate change.
From the executive summary: Climate change is expected to lead to increased human mobility in the forms of migration, displacement and planned relocation of communities as areas become uninhabitable because of the effects of global warming. While considerable attention has been directed toward the first two categories – particularly from humanitarian actors and migration specialists – the third form of movement has received much less attention. Most of the experience with planned relocation of communities has occurred in the context of development projects. This paper seeks to contribute to the discussion on mobility and climate change by focusing on planned relocations of communities as an adaptation to climate change. There are several different subcategories of people who may need to be relocated as a result of the effects of climate change, including:
- people who need to be relocated from areas prone to sudden-onset natural disasters which are increasing in severity and intensity as a result of climate change (e.g. flood areas);
- people who need to be relocated because their livelihoods are threatened by slowonset effects of climate change (e.g. increasing drought frequency, salinisation of water resulting from sea level rise);
- people who need to be relocated because their country or parts of their country face destruction from the effects of climate change (e.g. small island states facing sea level rise.)
According to a new paper by Etienne Piguet the idea of migration linked to environmental change has appeared and disappeared several times in the history of migration studies. In this paper Piguet charts the history of the idea’s disapearence and reemergence, but argues that more research is still needed to properly understand the connection between environmental change and migration.
From the abstract: Beginning with Friedrich Ratzel, the founders of migration studies all mentioned the natural environment as an important determinant of human mobility. As migration theories grew in coherence and complexity over the course of the twentieth century, however, environmental considerations generally disappeared from explanations of displacement. They would reappear in a largely unconnected discourse stressing the threat of future waves of “environmental migrants” in the end-of-the-century context of climate change anxiety. This alarmist stance was heavily criticized by several migration scholars during the same period of time as a corpus of empirical studies emerged that reconsidered the possible impact of the environment on migration. The purpose of this article is to analyze the intellectual history of this swing of the pendulum. The first part examines the rationale for the temporary disappearance of the environment from migration studies, as this major shift has not yet been fully or systematically studied. The second part considers the renewal of interest in environmental migration. Finally, the last part argues that although a solid body of new research documents the contemporary migration–environment nexus, additional work is needed to reembed the environment more firmly within migration theories, taking into account the increased focus on the nature–society nexus, which has recently expanded in geography.
The Feinstein International Center has released a new report on climate change and humanitarian crises, concluding that we must move from a mindset where crisis and intervention is seen as exceptional to one where continually managing risk becomes normal and on-going.
From the abstract: This paper explores the relationships between climate change, humanitarian crises and humanitarian response through a review of published and grey literature. We examine the historical evidence for associations between climate change and humanitarian crises, and move on to a brief review of present humanitarian crises directly attributable to disasters triggered by climatological events. Finally, we look at three interrelated aspects of future trends: changing weather patterns, increasing societal vulnerabilities, and shifting demographics. We conclude with some thoughts on the policy and practical implications for the aid community, academia, and donor and crisis-affected states, emphasizing the need to shift from a mindset in which crisis response is exceptional and interventionist to one in which managing crises is seen as the norm, part of sovereignty and internalized within more formal international and national arrangements.
What should the Rio +20 outcomes document have said about migration and displacement linked to climate change?
What should the Rio +20 outcomes document have said about migration and displacement linked to climate change? Before the start of the negotiations the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) suggested the following: that migration should be mainstreamed into climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction; that migration should be seen as a positive adaptation strategy and voluntary migration should be facilitated to prevent future displacement. In the end the final outcomes document – ambitiously titled “The future we want” – said none of these things.
The story of how these ideas didn’t make it into the final document is one of advocacy by NGOs and international organisations, who in the end ran up against the fact that migration was never going to be a key issue at Rio.
Before the Rio +20 conference started the UN released a draft of the final outcomes document. This was a rough sketch of what world leaders would be debating, changing and eventually agreeing at the conference. This was the point at which the IOM and UNISDR first raised concerns. Like many organisations hoping to influence the outcomes document, they released a response to the first draft. It’s worth quoting several of their suggestions at length:
“The outcome document should explicitly acknowledge that mainstreaming migration into disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies will both minimize forced population movements and facilitate the use of migration as a positive adaptation strategy. Safe, legal migration opportunities for particularly vulnerable populations can transform them from victims to positive agents for change, generating economic and social remittances – skills, knowledge, networks – which can be brought to bear to assist in building the resilience and sustainability of their communities and countries of origin.”
“Particular attention should be paid to those who are in harm’s way but are too impoverished to move. Here too, planned and well-managed migration can be one important solution for this population of concern. Any inclination to artificially restrict population flows from environmentally vulnerable areas must be resisted.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) both released key documents at the Rio conference itself. In a clear call to action, the NRC released its annual figures for the number of people displaced by natural hazards. The figures showed that over 14 million people were displaced by natural hazards in 2011. Releasing the figures at Rio was designed to send a clear message to delegates: displacement linked to climate related hazards must be addressed at Rio. In another attempt to push climate related displacement onto the agenda the UNHCR released a document containing testimonies from refugees in the Horn of Africa. The testimonies detail, often movingly, the connection between climate change, drought, famine and displacement. Again, releasing the testimonies at the conference was designed to send a clear message to delegates. Speaking at the launch of the testimonies UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres made it clear what was required of delegates: “I am convinced that climate change will increasingly be a driver in worsening displacement crises in the world. It is very important for the world to come together to respond to this challenge”
But the pressure of the IOM, UNISR, UN Refugee Agency an the Norwegian Refugee Council didn’t convince leaders that displacement linked to climate change was worth mentioning in the final document. In the end The Future We Want contains two references to migration: Paragraph 144 commits the parties to “seize the opportunities and address the challenges” of migration. Paragraph 157 calls upon states to protect the human rights of migrants. Although these are small steps at least they provide “some openings for more effectively integrating displacement into the post-2015 sustainable development framework” according to Megan Bradley at the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement.
Rio +20 represented a flop in other senses too. The outcomes document contains no real progress on any issues. In every section of the document, world leaders acknowledge and express concern about almost every global problem. At no point to they commit to a time scale or plan for for doing anything. However for organisations concerned with displacement linked to climate change Rio represents a bigger failure: the issue isn’t event mentioned.
Blog author: Alex Randall. All views expressed are the author’s own.
Image credit: “alobos flickr” Creative Commons on Flickr.
The UN Human Rights council has made an important move forward on the connections between climate change, human rights and internal displacement.
From Climate Change Policy and Practice. During its 20th session, the UN Human Rights Council expressed concern over the expected exacerbating impact of climate change on natural hazards and climate-related events, and its related contribution to internal displacement.
Resolution A/HRC/20/L.14 – one of 22 adopted at the session – calls for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and the building of resilience to disasters to be addressed with a renewed sense of urgency in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
In the resolution, the Council invites the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons to continue exploring the human rights implications and dimensions of disaster-induced internal displacement, with a view to supporting Member States in their efforts to build local resilience and capacity to prevent displacement, or to provide assistance and protection to those who are forced to flee. The resolution refers to the adverse effects of climate change in environmental degradation and extreme weather events.
The European Science Foundation (ESF) will host the conference Tracing Social Inequalities in Environmentally-Induced Migration. 9-13 December 2012, Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF), Bielefeld, Germany.
From the conference concept note: The social inequalities between world regions, countries, geographical regions, organisations, groups and categories of people involved in environmental and climate-induced migration constitute the core thematic foci of the 2nd 2012 ESF-Bielefeld University research conference. Neither are all regions or social groups susceptible to climate and environmental change as a trigger for migration in the same way. Nor do all regions and groups have a comparable influence on policy decisions or public discourse that might affect them. Those regions, groups, organisations and states affected by environmental change have very unequal material and immaterial resources to respond to displacement, impelled migration and its causes. Differences in vulnerability and capacities to address these challenges are partly due to the fact that geographical areas are differentially exposed to climate and environmental harms, but also because their exposure is a consequence of their socio-economic position, class, ethnicity, race and gender. That the 2011 East African drought affected nearly 15.8 million people is the result of an interplay between climatic and societal reasons.