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Climate Change, Migration and Critical International Security Considerations

image of Climate Change, Migration and Critical International Security Considerations

This report reviews the available scholarly reporting on climate change, migration and security and describes the legal and policy challenges facing the international community. While there is indeed considerable evidence that climate does influence migration, future estimates are hampered by a lack of reliable data. Climate-related migration is closely connected to the social, economic, cultural and institutional processes that shape the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of exposed populations. Conflict may potentially emerge in situations of resource scarcity and resource abundance, but in most cases there will be opportunities for intervention before violence occurs. Most climate change-driven migration is likely to occur with countries and regions, although there will be increased international movements along established migrant networks. To avoid large-scale distress migrations, the report outlines priority actions for policymakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance adaptive capacity in vulnerable regions, and provide assistance to those displaced.

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Executive summary

The impacts of anthropogenic climate change are expected to lead to large-scale population displacements and migrations in the coming decades, with the potential to create instability and conflict in the most vulnerable regions. An oft-cited prediction by Myers (2002) suggests that climate change and other environmental factors could lead to 200 million people being displaced by mid-century; other estimates suggest that as many as 1 billion people could be displaced. Such estimates are not based on statistical or empirical evidence, and it is arguable whether any population movements presently being observed are attributable to climatic change.

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