The effect of environmental change on human migration

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Abstract

The influence of the environment and environmental change is largely unrepresented in standard theories of migration, whilst recent debates on climate change and migration focus almost entirely on displacement and perceive migration to be a problem. Drawing on an increasing evidence base that has assessed elements of the influence of the environment on migration, this paper presents a new framework for understanding the effect of environmental change on migration. The framework identifies five families of drivers which affect migration decisions: economic, political, social, demographic and environmental drivers. The environment drives migration through mechanisms characterised as the availability and reliability of ecosystem services and exposure to hazard. Individual migration decisions and flows are affected by these drivers operating in combination, and the effect of the environment is therefore highly dependent on economic, political, social and demographic context. Environmental change has the potential to affect directly the hazardousness of place. Environmental change also affects migration indirectly, in particular through economic drivers, by changing livelihoods for example, and political drivers, through affecting conflicts over resources, for example. The proposed framework, applicable to both international and internal migration, emphasises the role of human agency in migration decisions, in particular the linked role of family and household characteristics on the one hand, and barriers and facilitators to movement on the other in translating drivers into actions. The framework can be used to guide new research, assist with the evaluation of policy options, and provide a context for the development of scenarios representing a range of plausible migration futures. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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Black, R., Adger, W. N., Arnell, N. W., Dercon, S., Geddes, A., & Thomas, D. (2011). The effect of environmental change on human migration. Global Environmental Change, 21(SUPPL. 1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.10.001

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