Migration Motivated By Climate Change, Defined

Workers place geo-textile bags to prevent river erosion on the banks of Padma River in Bangladesh last September. Munir Uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

Climate change has been a constant topic in our pages. Migration motivated by this crisis, not at all. Thanks to Ari Shapiro, at National Public Radio (USA) for this clarifying question and answer session:

The first step to preparing for surging climate migration? Defining it

There are calls to better define what constitutes “climate migration” amid concern that policies are not keeping up with the growing issue and countries are failing to properly help those fleeing disasters.

Anywhere from tens of millions to one billion people could become climate migrants by 2050, according to a recent report from the RAND Corporation. The number varies so widely depending on the definition used.

“They may be reacting to rapid-onset shocks, such as extreme storms, or slow-onset and gradual stressors, such as drought or heat,” the report reads.

Jay Balagna is a disaster risk management expert at the RAND Corporation and one of the co-authors of the report. He said while climate migration existed on a spectrum — anything from rising sea levels to people leaving domestic conflicts exacerbated by drought — having a definition was still important.

“This is already happening. We know it’s already happening … We’ve seen it start to happen at either end of the spectrum,” Balagna said.

Distinguishing who is a climate migrant and who isn’t can make a difference when it comes to the privileges, rights and respect that they’re granted, Balagna said, in the same way that different types of refugees are covered under international laws and treaties.

Read the whole article here.

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