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How is climate change impacting migration patterns and global displacement?

How is climate change impacting migration patterns and global displacement?


  1. How is climate change impacting migration patterns and global displacement?


Impact of Climate Change on Migration Patterns and Global Displacement

  1. Introduction

The onset of rapid industrialization in the last two centuries put an end to the age-old belief that climate is static and unchanging. Human activities have contributed to a rise in global temperature, which in turn is causing changes in weather patterns globally. Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions, that is, more or fewer extreme weather events. There are different forms of migration. There is voluntary migration driven by individuals pursuing greater freedom, security, and in some cases, financial opportunities elsewhere. There is also forced migration, which occurs when people feel they have no other choice but to leave their homes, for example, because of a natural disaster, persecution, or violence. In addition, migration can also take place on a temporary or permanent basis. The effects of climate change will force millions of people to leave their homes, communities, and even countries in the coming years. However, most people, even many of those who accept the idea of climate change, most likely have not seriously thought about what the world will look like in 50 years when 200 million people – some predictions range from 150 million to 1 billion – are displaced by the impacts of climate change. This will be the largest forced migration the world has ever seen, and it is likely to last for 100 years or more. Yet globalization and the rise of some economic success mean that the people who may be affected, in Southeast Asia and Africa, for example, have little attention from the global community. This report studies the impacts of climate change on migration and what the future holds for the world.

1.1. Background

The concept of climate change has been a prominent global issue since the late 20th century. Following the industrial revolution, various human activities such as urbanization, industrialization, deforestation, and technological advancements contributed to the overall temperature of the earth’s climate. It has resulted in many catastrophic effects that are disastrous to anthropogenic activities and human existence, ranging from negative impacts on agriculture, submergence of coastal areas, extinction of some biological species, changes in weather patterns and the increase in natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and heat waves. Furthermore, mass scientific research and experiments have provided substantial empirical support and theoretical endorsement to the theory of climate change, discrediting and invalidating those who claim it as a fallacy. Despite the concept of climate change being relatively new and continuing to evolve over the past few decades, the idea of human migration, which is the movement of people from one place to another with the intention of settling in the new location, has been a real concern for many politicians, researchers, and international organizations arising from the adverse effects of climate change on our earth. It has sparked extensive research and important efforts in trying to address the emerging issue. The term ‘climate-induced migration’, which refers to the movement of a group of people from their place of origin due to sudden or long-term changes in the local environment such as drought, desertification and sea level rise, has been widely used in research studies and international literature. Yet the issue of climate change and migration is increasingly politicized and securitized, a process by which a certain problem is viewed as a matter for the national or the global security agenda in relation to securing the state and its sovereignty, for example, by the relevant states and interest groups. Such a view points to a potentially serious and negative social impact on the displaced and migrating population due to the substantive focus on national benefit and state’s interest. It is clear, from the view of current political standpoints, that both the nation that is vulnerable to climate change and the potential migratory population would stand to lose any power to control the cause of climate change and thus displacing effects. Rather than addressing global injustice and finding humanitarian solution to those displaced, the current regime on climate change could possibly brings the premise of treating vulnerable people and the right of environment as the matter of charity rather than justice. It is under this context that the present study aims to delve into the substantive area, specifically on understanding the link between climate change and migration, the impacts on forced migration and how the future might be different as a result of certain environmental and migration trends. By doing so, I will be able to equip myself with substantial knowledge and awareness on the urgency of the issue of climate-induced migration and to embrace those who are in need of help in our community.

1.2. Purpose of the Study

The primary goal of this study is to analyze the multidimensional impacts of climate change on global displacement that can help formulate necessary adaptive solutions for development planning. This research takes a global perspective using the case of low-lying small island developing states to examine the potential future scale and range of human migration and displacement driven by the adverse impacts of climate change. Through the case of the Marshall Islands, this study also takes a qualitative approach using empirical data collected from in-depth interviews to provide a substantial understanding of the lived experiences of different forms of population displacement and migration caused by climate change. By analyzing both the host and host country responses to the contemporary migration of the Marshall Islanders, it aims to provide a reciprocal understanding of the interacting factors affecting the migration decisions of those affected by climate change. Specifically, this research seeks to achieve the following objectives: (1) to investigate the global and local processes that determine differential vulnerabilities to climate change induced displacement on a global scale based on current geo-political and socio-economic power relations. (2) to provide insights into how far human rights and regional legal frameworks cover and assist with the rights of those who are or may be displaced by the adverse impacts of climate change. (3) to critically appraise the prevalence of climate change induced human migration and displacement which have been linked to environmentally or politically led interventions. Like Prior and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many theories of climate change induced migration and displacement assume that environmental factors such as rising sea level and habitat inclusion caused by extreme natural disasters will axiomatically lead to human migration. While these assumptions may be valid on one level, the complexity of climatic interrelations with, for example, different social organizations and human agency actually make it relatively difficult to predict the exact interactive combination of factors that lead to migration and displacement. Such unpredictability is compounded by the fact that climate change in its guise as an all encompassing ‘risk’ through ‘the precautionarily discourse’ has become a political tool used by developed countries to emphasize the uncertainty of human migration cause and as a result deter the inhabitants of low-lying small island developing states to seek compensation and international redress. In turns, individual rights and wider opportunities to claim against such vulnerability to climate change are then potentially undermined. The final aim is to try to explore the relationship between everyday practical human experience and the effects of climate change which lead to human migration as a way of testing these competing theoretical position from the ground up. The utilization of empirical data and the examination of the Marshall Islands as a specific case study will offer the opportunity to examine the interacting physical and human daily life divers and produce a substantial reflection on the ways in which people ‘on the move’ through migration in the throes of climate change.

1.3. Scope and Limitations

It is clear that the lack of internationally binding definitions of ‘climate refugee’ and ‘environmental migrant’ could be problems for law and policymakers when making new treaties in this field. This again demonstrates the significance of this study, that is, to examine how climate change cases are defined and applied in international law today. In addition, by including the qualitative method including analysis of relevant case studies, the study also raises questions on the moral standing of climate change victims in the current political atmosphere. End-user opinion can sometimes dictate how far and to what extent judges may interpret and expand the law to cover the victims of climate change.

One of the main challenges is to take a wide-ranging and multifaceted topic such as climate change and migration and apply it to legal definitions and concepts. For example, the definition of ‘refugee’ in international law has been written by the drafters of international treaties with escapees of wars and perpetrators of crimes against humanity in mind. However, recent climate change cases in international courts have expanded this definition to include claimants fleeing from climate disasters. This is an example of excitable discourse and interpretive diversity within legal studies that this study will look into.

The study on the impact of climate change on global migration has a broad scope and covers a wide range of subjects. The study spans several disciplines such as geography, politics, environmental science, and sociology. It also overlaps concepts from international and national law. Nevertheless, in order to provide a focused and concise research question and subsequent analysis, this study will have to be selective in what it covers and what it does not.

  1. Climate Change and Migration

2.1. Definition of Climate Change

2.2. Types of Migration

2.3. Link between Climate Change and Migration

  1. Impacts of Climate Change on Migration Patterns

3.1. Environmental Factors

3.1.1. Rising Sea Levels

3.1.2. Extreme Weather Events

3.1.3. Drought and Desertification

3.2. Socio-Economic Factors

3.2.1. Loss of Livelihoods

3.2.2. Food Insecurity

3.2.3. Conflict and Violence

  1. Global Displacement Due to Climate Change

4.1. Forced Displacement

4.1.1. Internal Displacement

4.1.2. Cross-Border Displacement

4.2. Refugees and Asylum Seekers

4.2.1. Legal Frameworks and Protection

4.2.2. Challenges Faced by Displaced Persons

  1. Policy and Response

5.1. International Efforts

5.1.1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

5.1.2. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

5.2. National Strategies

5.2.1. Adaptation and Mitigation Measures

5.2.2. Resettlement and Integration Programs

  1. Future Outlook

6.1. Predicted Trends in Climate Change and Migration

6.2. Potential Solutions and Recommendations

  1. Conclusion

How is climate change impacting migration patterns and global displacement?

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