Research Briefing | Apr 5, 2024

Beyond assumptions – the dynamics of climate migration

Millions of people have already been displaced because of environmental shocks, but many aspects of climate migration remain poorly understood. This confusion has led to oversimplified assumptions about its causes and effects – in reality, it’s more complicated and has many nuances.

What you will learn:

  • One of the most common assumptions about climate migration is that migration is directly caused by climate change. Truthfully, it’s hard to directly link the two. However, environmental factors can exacerbate the various economic, political, and social reasons why people emigrate – functioning as a threat multiplier.
  • Another assumption is that migrants from the global south will flood the north, which might be better equipped to withstand climate shocks. This would be hard to do as most climate migrants don’t have that capacity and usually move short distances.
  • Another oversimplified assumption stems from the fear climate migrants will disrupt labour and housing markets. It’s true that it will take some time for economies that welcome migrants to adjust. But risks can be minimised if properly managed. Migrants need support to adjust and assimilate so they can complement and contribute to the economy and domestic workforce.
  • Climate migration today may be different to that of the future. Should we fail to mitigate climate change and reach tipping points, the scale of movement will be unprecedented. With all its nuances, this makes predicting climate migration patterns even more complex, so we avoid making explicit assumptions in our high temperature scenarios.
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