Climate migration cannot be eradicated, it must be prepared for

22. 9. 2022
The impacts of climate change are increasing the likelihood of environmental migration to cities, creating increasing challenges for planning, especially in developing countries. Development programmes should therefore focus on cities as a refuge for climate migrants, rather than preventing them from leaving places where local conditions no longer allow them to obtain sufficient and regular livelihoods, says Robert Stojanov of the Faculty of Business and Economics at MENDELU, altogether with Alex de Sherbinin of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), The Earth Institute, Columbia University, and Sarah Rosengaertner of the Zolberg Institute On Migration and Mobility, The New School. On the contrary, cities should be prepared for their arrival with the help of development programmes and help these people relocate to safety.

Climate change is changing the parameters of population migration. Policy efforts and development programmes to date have tended to eliminate migration and encourage people to stay in their place of origin. The main objective of development aid is to reduce the number of people living in poverty, but it does not work very effectively, according to the scientist, and very often does not help in cases of adaptation to climate change. “Programmes aimed at growing more resilient crops may have local and short-term success, but in the long run their potential is exhausted. Especially when climate extremes occur with greater frequency and intensity, making their impacts more complex,” said Stojanov, who said those affected are leaving for cities despite the futile efforts of development aid. Climate migrants tend to be very poor people who have lost income and assets. Cities in a number of countries are already overcrowded and people affected by the impacts of climate change are thus expanding their slums.

Migrants can be expected to travel from less viable areas with lower water availability and crop productivity, such as the Sahel or inland China, or from areas affected by rising sea levels and violent storms, to urbanised centres. “If managed well, migration can create a positive momentum, including in urban areas that can benefit from increased economic growth. For migrants, it can be an opportunity to start a better and higher-quality life – to find a regular income, get a better education for their children and access to health care,” Stojanov explained. But to do this, a strong and enabling environment must be created, supported by direct incentives, such as programmes to acquire new skills and create jobs. Strategies to support migration must ensure not only the resilience of those who migrate, but also of those who belong to sending and receiving communities.

Climate change is a growing driver of migration, particularly within countries; precise information on the number of environmental migrants does not exist. “Recent estimates show that by 2050, climate change will force more than 200 million people to migrate internally. The latest study dedicated to estimating the number of people affected by floods by 2100 states that according to new models, sea level rise will affect 190 million people in the case of low greenhouse gas emissions, or 630 million people in the case of high emissions,” Stojanov outlined, therefore countries will have to take a long-term approach to planning and decision-making in which climate migrants are included in overall growth and development strategies, he said. The international spillover of climate migration is likely to pose a risk to smaller countries in size and areas intensely affected by the impacts of climate change, war and economic and social crises.

Contact for details: Dr. Robert Stojanov,, Faculty of Business and Economics, Mendel University

More news

All news