Climate change and migration: rethinking policies for adaptation and disaster risk reduction

from United Nations University, Munich Re
Published on 01 Sep 2011 View Original

Outcomes of the fifth UNU-EHS Summer Academy of the Munich Re Foundation Chair on Social Vulnerability

25 – 31 July 2010, Hohenkammer, Germany


Climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions is now, at some level, a fact. IPCC and other scientific bodies have modelled a number of future scenarios estimating changes in weather patterns, ocean currents, and (more recently) ecosystems.
Average atmospheric temperatures are increasing and with this increase scientists expect (and in some cases may already be observing) more rapid melting of the earth’s ice sheets, sea level rise, and greater seasonal variability in rainfall.
They are documenting more frequent storms and intense flooding in some areas, and severe and prolonged droughts in others, predicting further water scarcity, diminished food production, and unemployment. With the increase in natural disasters, vulnerable communities (those with weak support systems, governance, and capacity to respond) are most at risk. Many may be displaced or increase their reliance on migration as a coping strategy for survival. The rise in humanitarian crises presents enormous challenges for poorer countries and the international organizations called on for assistance. These challenges are exacerbated by the lack of consistent policies, standards, and practices in disaster planning related to human displacement and migration. As the findings of the Academy and case studies presented in this volume reveal, human mobility is not always adverse to community development but in some circumstances may help build resilience.
Better understanding the opportunities and impacts of migration, and how to protect those displaced by disaster, can help governments to improve their climate adaptation strategies.
So, too can improving cooperation among neighboring states with shared natural resources and among countries of migration origin and destination.
To do this effectively, governments will need to rethink existing disaster planning, migration policy, and institutional frameworks.

The findings and recommendations in this introductory chapter are the result of the 2010 Summer Academy on Social Vulnerability organized by UNU-EHS and MRF from 25 to 31 July 2010 in Hohenkammer, Germany. They provide a foundation for further consideration of how governments can better manage displacement and migration related to climate disasters. The papers that follow this introductory chapter in Sections 1 and 2 below are the selected work of Academy participants who undertook specific case studies as part of their graduate or post-graduate work and in preparation for the programme. In some circumstances they refined their analysis to incorporate their learning experience. The compilation of works is not meant to represent a comprehensive study of all issues relevant to climate-related migration. Rather, the individual studies provide a unique, in-depth focus on various aspects of the issue and on multiple regions where climate change impacts may be significant. They suggest new avenues for research, policy, and law that may be relevant to decision makers in affected regions, and bring a greater depth to the issues discussed by the Academy.