State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

, ,

Migration in the Face of Global Environmental Change

Map showing migration in dry ecosystemsA new report released this week by the United Kingdom’s Foresight Project on Environmental Migration and contributed to by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN ) shows that, over the past 40 years, coastal and inland water ecosystems experienced the greatest levels of net in-migration, whereas mountain, forest, cultivated, and dryland ecosystems experienced the greatest levels of net out-migration. The report also finds that net out-migration is generally spread over larger rural areas at relatively low levels, whereas net in-migration tends to be concentrated in urban areas. Because data on net migration are not widely available for  the time period, CIESIN used indirect estimation methods to model net migration by ecosystem and by decade for the period  of 1970-2010.  Read the report here.The Foresight Project’s summary report on environmental migration and other reports that contributed to its finding can be found here.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago

[…] of people to migrate in the future. (The CIESIN team contributed to that report, and de Sherbinin blogged about it on State of the Planet the other day. There’s a piece about it in the current Nature as well.) […]

D. Whitman
D. Whitman
12 years ago

Environmental change has a multiplier effect on other drivers of migration, such as economic hardship and crop failure. Yet terms such as “environmental refugees” and “climate refugees” may cause more problems than they solve. Neither category has status under international law. In the case of small island nations, there is an additional obstacle: If a whole state becomes submerged or uninhabitable, and there is no prospect of return, temporary refuge will not be enough. As Bogumil Terminski pionted in “Environmentally Induced Migrations” there is a huge conceptual difference between “environmental migrants” and “environmental refugees”. Accirding to this author environmental migrant is a persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees, therefore, are people compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character. As the evidence for global environmental change has accumulated over the past decade, academics, policymakers, and the media have given more attention to the issue of “environmental refugees.” A major concern is whether environmental change will displace large numbers of vulnerable people in the developing world, particularly from rural areas where livelihoods are especially dependent on climate and natural resources. A widely cited article estimated that more than 25 million people were displaced by environmental factors in 1995