At the Intersection of Human Migration and Climate Change: New Article Puts Out Call to Action

Image of person holding sign that reads, "There is no Planet B"

In a new article published in Current Environmental Health Reports this week, faculty and fellows from the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University examine the complexities at the intersection of human migration and climate change.  As powerfully argued by Drs. Satchit Balsari, Caleb Dresser and Jennifer Leaning in “Climate Change, Migration and Civil Strife,” migration must be anticipated as a certainty, and thereby planned for and supported.

The article focuses on four regions: the African Sahel, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the “Dry Corridor” in Central America, and South Asia, as together they host billons of marginalized people and face many climate-related hazards. The authors warn that unless the world’s most powerful governments change course now, the impact of climate change over this century will be impossible to bear for the hundreds of millions who will nevertheless move, as well as for those in host communities and those who will not find any remedy through migration.

It is now accepted that the changing climate will exacerbate the need or decision to migrate and disproportionately affect large, already vulnerable sections of the population.

The authors note that the wall-building, xenophobic and insular strategy embraced by the United States, Europe, China and India to deal with the greatest challenge of our times is regressive, violent and profoundly ignorant, in that it denies the core reality that, for millennia, humans have moved to escape when under threat. This strategy dismisses recent and strengthening scientific evidence that stability and security for hundreds of millions in Latin America, Africa and Asia will depend on the opportunity to relocate, even if seasonally, for work.

Policy recommendations, such as facilitating visa, employment and remittance arrangements, can complement urgently needed climate mitigation strategies. Water management planning, the authors stress, will be critical to any adaptation in agricultural lands and urban areas.

Effective and timely preparatory action seems unlikely: the 2020 pandemic has reaffirmed that the current global approach to solving intractable challenges does not embrace cooperation, mutual interest and scientific rigor, but instead retreats to adamant rejection of a future that is upon us – the article, in sum, puts out a strong call to action for host communities.

The authors argue that governments must start preparing now for the increased demand for food, water, shelter, services and jobs that will arrive with these migrant populations.

To read the full article in Current Environmental Health Reports, please click here.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.