IOM Migration Research Series No. 31: Migration and Climate Change

Switzerland / Europe and Central Asia

This new IOM report, part of its Migration Research Series, titled
“Migration and Climate Change”, focuses on the possible
future scenarios for climate change, natural disasters and
migration and development, looking to increase awareness and find
answers to the challenges that lie ahead.

The report states that even though it is
defined as a growing crisis, the consequences of climate change for
human population are unclear and unpredictable. In 1990, the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the
greatest single impact of climate change could be on human
migration—with millions of persons displaced by shoreline
erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption. Since then
various analysts have tried to put numbers on these flows of
climate migrants, the most widely repeated prediction being 200
million by 2050.

The study points out that the scientific basis
for climate change is increasingly well established, and confirms
that current predictions as to the “carrying capacity”
in large parts of the world will be compromised by climate

The meteorological impact of climate change
will cause population movement making certain parts of the world
much less viable places to live; causing food and water supplies to
become more unreliable and increasing the frequency and severity of
floods and storms. This, in addition to non-climate drivers, such
as government policy, population growth and community-level
resilience to natural disaster, will contribute to the degree of
vulnerability that people will experience.

The study defines the issue as one of time
(the speed of change) and scale (the number of people it will
affect). The report sets out three possible scenarios, based on
different forecasts. These range from the best case scenario where
serious emissions reduction takes place and a “Marshall
Plan” is put in place, to the “business as usual”
scenario where the large-scale migration foreseen by the gloomiest
analysis comes true, or is exceeded.

At the same time, the study notes that climate
change and forced migration hinder development in at least four
ways; by increasing pressure on urban infrastructure and services,
by undermining economic growth, by increasing the risk of conflict
and by leading to worse health, educational and social indicators
among migrants themselves.

According to the study, there has been a
collective, and rather successful, attempt to ignore the scale of
the problem. Forced climate migrants fall through the cracks of
international refugee and immigration policy—and there is
considerable resistance to the idea of expanding the definition of
refugees to include climate “refugees”.

Meanwhile, large-scale migration is not taken
into account in national adaptation strategies which tend to see
migration as a “failure of adaptation”. So far there is
no “home” for climate migrants in the international
community, both literally and figuratively. The research concludes
that there is a need for international recognition of the problem,
a better understanding of its dimensions and a willingness to
tackle it; issuing several key recommendations to achieve these

The report is available online at "paragraph-link-no-underline" href=
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For more information, please contact:

Jean Philippe Chauzy

IOM Geneva

Tel: +41.22.717.9361

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