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Policy Papers - May 14, 2007

Climate Change and Conflict: The Migration Link

This publication is part of the CWC Working Paper Series [read more about this publication series]

Nils Petter Gleditsch, Idean Salehyan, and Ragnhild Nordas

 

 

From the Introduction: In this paper, we review the current state of knowledge regarding climate change and violent conflict, paying special attention to the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. We find that much of the literature is speculative and difficult to substantiate given data constraints.

Indeed, current debates frequently focus on possible scenarios in the future, which are inherently difficult to test, although they should not be discounted. Then, we focus on what we believe to be a plausible link between climate shifts and problems for human security: mass migration. Climate change is likely to be a significant factor leading to mass exodus from increasingly uninhabitable areas, and population shifts stemming directly or indirectly from environmental pressures can place significant burdens on migrant-receiving areas.

However, we emphasize the importance of good governance, local integration capacity, and international agents as mitigating factors, and discuss effective policy responses. We conclude that given the many serious warnings from prominent voices, climate change warrants consideration by the United Nations as a security threat, although not necessarily in the traditional sense of military security.

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