Migration and Climate Change

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Over the past years, climate change has become a major issue globally, and successive reports from the IPCC have demonstrated its possible impact on migration. Whereas population geography has examined environmental factors insofar as they shed light on the different phases of global population and the emergence (development?) of cities, until recently, migration studies have overlooked the impact of the environment as a repelling factor resulting in migration. Although there is an increasing scholarly interest in this topic, specific knowledge on the environment-migration nexus  is still limited. For instance, there are discussions and controversies regarding the active mechanisms, as well as the number of people displaced and the geographical areas affected.

While attempts have been made in the past to measure the role of environmental changes in the decision to migrate, current research is taking different directions. Most scholarsof the field have come to the conclusion that environmental changes act as a threat multiplier which reinforce existing vulnerabilities and other push-pull factors of migrationsuch as economic, political and social conditions. Thus, studies on environmental migration turn to the study of migration and mobility in contexts of environmental change.

In the past, the Institute of Geography (IGG) of Neuchâtel carried out different field studies in various contexts such as Bolivia, Niger, Peru, the Philippines and Turkey. In line with current research directions in the field of ‘environmental mobilities’ and together with local partners, the IGG team is currently conducting research on the effects of environmental changes on different patterns of (im)mobility in Tajikistan and on the role of migration as an adaptation means in Senegal. The IGG team is also involved in the international HABITABLE project which examines how climate affects the habitability of socio-ecological systems and transforms current and future migration and displacement patterns and  in the PEEMPASS project which assesses the role of the perception of climate change in the decision to migrate in Senegal. The IGG team has also been involved in the writing of the IPCC’s fifth report on the social consequences of climate change. Finally, our research works aim at developing theoretical and epistemological reflections on the environment-migration nexus.

Research at the IGG