The chance to prevent climate-linked migration passed decades ago. But there are things governments could do to helpby Alex Randall / February 8, 2018 / Leave a comment
Most of what you know about climate-linked migration is probably wrong. The media usually report on the connections that are most dramatic or tragic, skewing the picture.
This doesn’t mean that people won’t move because of the impacts of climate change. They absolutely will. For millions of people, migration is already how they are adapting to climate change. Droughts, hurricanes, floods and sea level rise are all forcing people to move. In fact, 23 million people moved due to climate and weather-related disasters last year.
But the way people will move, and where they will move from and to, is often unexpected.
At the moment, the vast majority of climate-linked migration happens within national borders. Climate-linked migration is very often from rural areas into cities. As drought hits agricultural areas, people move into nearby cities to find other work; they’ve migrated, but not far.
People also usually move on their own, often without family members. This is risky for migrants, but it means they can send money home to their family. Their migration has taken them out of dangerous climate-vulnerable places. Collectively, they are also sending a flow money back into those vulnerable areas.
That flow of money has started to play a vital role in insulating those families from some of the worst impacts of climate change. As conditions worsen, this money starts to provide something of a safety net.
But, as the impacts of climate change worsen, more people will want to migrate across borders.
Governments in developed countries are reluctant to engage with this reality, even as it goes on around them.
For many politicians, there seems little to be gained from championing the issue. Support for migrants and refugees is at an all-time low. Few politicians will risk making bold statements about making provision for more people. Climate change is also a low priority for electorates in developed countries.
To make matters worse, it isn’t always clear what a willing politician would actually do. There is no simple law that could be passed that would “fix” climate-linked migration. There is no single global agreement that can signed and ratified.
The most common response I hear from political leaders is that climate change is being dealt with. Nationally,…