Climate change and migration: predictions, politics and policy – course page

A new online course, focused on the links between climate change and migration. Study online, for free – and get to grips with one of defining global issues of the 21st century

Climate change and migration: predictions, politics and policy – course page

Course sessions and dates

Course session details and dates
Each of the course sessions are detailed here. Once the session date has passed the recording of the lecture and the task will be added here too.
Getting started: what does climate-linked migration look like? February 14th 2019
In this introductory lecture, we’ll look at three testimonies from Mexico, The Philippines and Pakistan. Each tells a different story, and each allows us to look at a different kind of human movement driven by climate change. We’ll reflect on the context of each of these testimonies and use them to jump into wider issues surrounding climate-linked migration.

Watch the first session

Session 1 Feedback form

Session 1 task: 

  1. Download the Moving Stories document. This is a collection of testimonies from people from across the world who have moved – in part – due to the impacts of climate change.
  2. Spend a little time looking through the document and reading a few of the testimonies.
  3. Choose one testimony to focus on, and consider the following questions:  
  • Thinking about the climactic event that is part of this person’s testimony – how quickly did it unfold? Did it arrive suddenly, or did it unfold over a number of months?
  • Thinking about the experience of the person who moved – how much agency did they have? How many choices (if any) did they have? For example could they decide when they moved, could they decide where they moved to, could they decide who they moved with?
  • Focusing on the testimony, did this person cross an international border or not? Are they talking about the possibility of crossing a border? Or are they talking about moving within their own country?
  • What kind of risks might this person have encountered if they had stayed where they were? And what kind of new or different risks do you think they will encounter as a result of moving?
  1. Now choose one other testimony from a different chapter of the Moving Stories collection. Go through the above questions again. Which answers are similar and which are different?

5. If you want, write down the answers to the above questions and post them to the course Facebook group. If you wish, please also post encouraging and constructive comments on other people’s posts who have done this

The very big picture. A very brief history of migration and climate change. March 14th 2019
This lecture provides grounding in both climate change and migration. These are two vital building blocks in our exploration of how climate change is reshaping migration. We’ll delve into the history of climate change and explore how (some) humans have radically altered the atmosphere. We will then explore some key episodes of human migration in history and examine some of the key concepts that help us analyze existing migration patterns.

Watch session 2

Session 2 task
This task is about exploring some of the concepts we looked at in Session 2. The task is designed to help you apply those concepts to real situations across the world. As you’ll remember we looked at several different ways of thinking about human movement:
The distinction between migration and displacement
Whether someone has crossed a border or not
The drivers behind their movement

Task details
Use Google News Search to find some recent news stories about people moving due to weather related events. This search is an important part of the task. Think carefully about the news stories you come across. Are they from reputable new sources? What is the political outlook of the news source? How does this news outlet represent refugees and migrants? Find three news stories that are about people moving due to extreme weather. For example people moving due to droughts, hurricane strikes or flooding.

For each of these stories consider the following questions:

— How much choice or freedom did people have about moving? Could they choose where they moved to, when they moved or who they moved with? Or did they have any choice at all?
— Did they cross an international border, or did they move internally? Where did they move from and to?
— What drivers of movement do you think are behind this episode of migration or displacement? We know that one key driver is the extreme weather event described in the news story. But do you think other forces at at play too? If so what are these forces? Do you think that this episode of movement is mostly about weather and climate – or do you think that other factors like the economy, work or armed conflict are more important drivers?

If you want, you can post one of the news stories on the discussion group and include your answers to the questions in your post. As ever, these tasks are not compulsory. They are to help you deepen your knowledge in your own time if you want to.

What do we know? And what does the future hold? April 18th 2019
We’ve all seen stark headlines about the future of migration driven by climate change. But how are these predictions reached? This session delves into the research methods we have for examining climate-linked migration. We’ll then explore what this evidence tells us about current migration linked to climate change, and finally how we can attempt predictions about the future.

Politics 1: Neoliberalism. May 16th.

Can we use the labour market to address climate-linked migration? Should we look into the insurance industry to protect people from climate displacement? Neoliberal thinking has emerged as the dominant way of addressing many global problems. With its reliance on markets and smaller government intervention, it has become the dominant political outlook across the globe. This session looks at how neoliberal thinking emerged, and what its application to climate-linked migration might mean.

Task and further reading from sessions 4: climate, migration and neoliberalism.

Think through the various ways you know that governments are tackling climate change. Consider the following questions about each:
On balance does the policy use markets or government intervention to tackle climate change?
Does the policy make individual people or governments / states responsible for dealing with climate change?

Further reading:
Managing Climate Insecurity by Ensuring Continuous Capital Accumulation: ‘Climate Refugees’ and ‘Climate Migrants’

Waltz with development: insights on the developmentalization of climate-induced migration

One step forward, two steps back? The fading contours of (in)justice in competing discourses on climate migration

Politics 2: Our unequal world. July 11th
This session explores which people are most likely to experience climate-linked migration and the causes behind their vulnerability. Why is it that some people and places are more likely to experience episodes of climate-linked migration? And what are the decisions, ideas and historical events that have created these unequal levels of vulnerability? This session looks firstly at why different locations are more vulnerable, but also at why some people because of their race, gender or religion are more likely to be displaced by climate impacts.
Politics 3: Security - for who? July 25th
The idea of security has come to dominate many governments thinking about migration. Controlling and stopping migration through various security measures have become the ‘go-to’ policy options for many countries, especially in the West. But what would these ideas and policies look like in an era of climate-linked migration? This session examines how the idea of security has shaped thinking and policy on climate-linked migration – and who the winners and losers are of this approach.
Policy 1: key policy issues. August 15th
We’ve examined some of the key political ideas behind addressing climate-linked migration, but how are these translating into actual policy and action? This session looks at some of the key policy issues in climate-linked migration. We’ll focus on the legal status of people who move due to climate change and policy questions around planning and preparedness for climate-linked displacement.
Policy 2: policy processes and decision-making. September
This session looks at where and how major decisions are made about climate-linked migration. How do governments cooperate on addressing this issue? How are states, communities and individuals represented in these processes? This session will look at several key policy areas where decisions are made about climate-linked migration and displacement. The sessions look at what these policy processes have achieved so far, and what their advantages and limitations are.
Complex crises 1: Syria and the Rohingya. October
We now have a set of analytical tools that we can use to examine some of the most complex situations unfolding across the planet. We’ll use the understanding we’ve gained so far to look at two controversial, contemporary situations: the ongoing conflict in Syria; and the Rohingya refugee situation in Bangladesh. Both of these situations have climate change dimensions – either driving or worsening the situations. We’ll use the analytical tools we’ve gained to create a subtle and nuanced picture of how climate change is involved in these crises.
Complex crises 2: The Pacific Islands and the Horn of Africa. November
Our second session on complex situations analyzes two further crises: the situation on many of the Pacific Islands, and ongoing drought and displacement situation in the Horn of Africa. As with our previous session, we’ll use the analytical tools we’ve gained over the course to unpack the role of climate change in creating human movement in these situations. As this is the final session of the course, we’ll also spend some time to look at the future learning and how to pursue your own areas of interest.


Does the course cost anything?
The course is completely free

How much time will it take up?
There is one session per month. Each session is roughly 2 hours long. The minimum time is, therefore, two hours, but you can pursue your own interests and follow up using the recommended reading from each session

What equipment do I need?
You need a device with a screen and an internet connection. To join the sessions live, your device will need to be able to access our webinar platform ‘Zoom.’ You can check the device requirements here. To catch up with the sessions later, you’ll need a device that can play Youtube videos.

Are there any prerequisites?
No, you don’t need any previous qualifications. We don’t assume you have any previous experience in this field.

Is the course accredited by an academic institution?

How often are you going to email me?
About twice per month. We’ll email you just before the live sessions with a login and joining instructions. We’ll also email you just after the sessions when the recording is online. We might need to email you if there are any last minute changes. Your details will be kept in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Is there any assessment?
No, there is no requirement to complete or submit work for assessment

Images on this page:
“Diving Near Slums of Cebu City Philippin” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by AdamCohn
“Pakistan Floods – 6 months on” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) DfiD / Russell Watkins
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