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New Study Challenges Climate Migration Myths

Ingrid Boas et al., Nature Climate Change

Misleading claims about mass migration induced by climate change continue to surface in both academia and policy. This requires a new research agenda on ‘climate mobilities’ that moves beyond simplistic assumptions and more accurately advances knowledge of the nexus between human mobility and climate change.

International migration and climate policy assumes that anthropogenic climate change already is, and will increasingly be, a major driver of mass migration from the Global South to the Global North. The UNFCCC explicitly specifies the need to avert, minimize and address climate displacement1, while the UN Security Council warns of mass climate migration and the subsequent risk of aggravating conflicts2. Although the potential for climate change to disrupt livelihoods and threaten lives is real, these policies reinforce a false narrative that predicts large numbers of ‘climate refugees’. This self-referencing narrative in scientific literature and policy reports has the consequence of entrenching climate migration as a looming security crisis without an empirical scientific basis3.

Instead of being challenged, this emphasis on securitization (presenting climate change and migration as a security risk) is actively being perpetuated by public funding schemes for scientific research intended to inform national, regional or international policy development. In doing so, these funding policies use the justification of avoiding harm to destination areas in order to keep climate migrants in their places of origin4. A recent EU Horizon 2020 funding call for research on climate change and migration was symptomatic of this securitization agenda, reflecting political demands rather than research gaps to alleviate “migration pressures at the source”5. Similarly, a Horizon 2020 research funding call from 2015 used the example of climate migration to illustrate the “real threat” of Third Country climate-driven crises to European security6.

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