Climate Change and Human Migration: A Tenuous Relationship (G. Kibreab)


Gaim Kibreab


Climate change, human migration, adaptation, environmental refugees


After discussing the manner in which climate change may contribute to human migration and the uncertainties inherent in the current predictions concerning the social effects of climate change, as well as the possible adaptive responses of people inhabiting the affected areas, the article critically analyses firstly, the debate on ‘environmental refugees;’ secondly, the existing estimates of the numbers allegedly displaced by climate change; and thirdly, the debate on whether those displaced by climate change should be accorded rights and protection similar to those available for persons who flee due to ‘well-founded fear of persecution’–refugees. The points of departure of the article are firstly, it is impossible to isolate climate change as a cause of migration as this is to a large extent a function of mitigation and effectiveness of adaptation. Secondly, displacements triggered by a combination of climate change and other factors are likely to be internal and short-term rather than external and permanent.


(2009) 20 Fordham Environmental Law Review 357


Climate Change and Human Migration: A Tenuous Relationship