Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Climate Change and Migration Dynamics

Climate change is a new driver of human migration and is expected by many to dwarf all others in its impact. But even as a growing number of policymakers around the world voice their concerns about the steep challenges and dangers that climate change presents, far less agreement exists about what kinds of effects will be felt where, by whom, and precisely when. Human displacement is a result of a complex mix of factors, and thus some of the more commonly repeated — and often widely varying — predictions of the numbers of people who will be displaced by climate change are not informed by a full understanding of the dynamics of migration. In Climate Change and Migration Dynamics, Kathleen Newland, who directs the Migration Policy Institute’s Migrants, Migration, and Development and Refugee Protection Programs, analyzes the salient mechanisms of displacement: sea level rise, higher temperatures, disruption of water cycles, and increasing severity of storms; as well as the ensuing migration responses. Estimates that more than 200 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050 are largely mechanistic, Newland finds, noting that the projections are typically made by climate-change experts and fail to account for a number of variables. Among them: adaptation to changes, governments (and other powerful actors) influencing the kinds of movements in response to environmental changes, or the fact that most climate-related migration will likely be internal rather than across borders. The report offers recommendations to offset the severity of displacement spurred by climate change and charts a vision of possible productive responses, with both international cooperation and internal government policy essential to that success.


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