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Researcher: Climate Change To Cause Human Migration

One of the effects of climate change: drought. (Vicki/Flickr)
One of the effects of climate change: drought. (Vicki/Flickr)

Scientists say rising sea levels, more frequent and intense droughts and an increase in the severity and number of storms, are all consequences of a warming planet.

This may make some regions uninhabitable and lead to residents moving elsewhere to support themselves. And some say that competition for increasingly scarce resources could lead to a higher incidence of human conflict.

Susan Martin, director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss these climate changes and the potential human migration.

Interview Highlights: Susan Martin

On Typhoon Haiyan in the context of climate change

“Unfortunately what we’re seeing is, I think, the harbinger of more of these storms to come. When we’re thinking through the impacts of climate change over the long term, it’s very clear that the potential for more frequent and many more intense storms is very, very likely.”

On whether Filipinos might migrate after this storm

“I don’t envision the entire island nation moving — that’s many, many millions of people. What I do envision is that migration will continue to be a major means through which people adapt to climate change and to adapt to the kinds of storms or increased drought in other places that are likely to accommodate the environmental changes that they’re seeing. So migration will probably increase. It’s not always necessarily a bad thing, because a lot of migrants do go into better economic situations where they’re able to do better for themselves and can send money home. But when people are displaced from their homes against their will because of events beyond their control, then they may end up actually being much worse off than they were before the storms happened.”

On how climate refugees will be received

“First of all, the majority of people who will move in the Philippines and most other countries will be moving internally. It’s only a fairly small proportion of the world’s population who will be affected by climate change who are likely to cross international borders. And if they do it under emergency circumstances, with no advanced warning, no preparation, it will likely generate some quite negative reactions. On the other hand, if we take the time now to begin to develop the policies and the programs through which people can relocate to safer areas, in a much more gradual fashion and with attention to the needs of the communities into which their migrating, then I think we can avoid some of the worst responses.”


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