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Interest in the link between environmental change and human migration has grown in the last five years, principally due to the mounting body of evidence on the likely impacts of anthropogenic climate change. This growing concern has led to widespread discussion of the potential for climate change to induce population movement. The drivers of such movement include the inundation of settled land due to sea-level rise, accelerated desertification among currently cultivated lands (leading to migration in search for food), and more frequent and severe climatic disasters such as drought, floods and tropical storms. This paper was prepared to compliment and develop earlier work of the Refugee Studies Centre on this subject (Boano, Zetter and Morris 2009) and to provide background analysis to the recent RSC Workshop on ‘Environmental Change and Displacement: Assessing the Evidence and Developing Norms for Response’ held from 8-9 January 2009. The aim of this paper is three-fold. Firstly, it seeks to outline the current debate on the relationship between environmental change and migration. Secondly, it outlines and interrogates the existing empirical data on the relationship between environmental change and migration. Finally, it highlights some existing gaps in the literature and considers methodological issues, making some suggestions for future exploration of the issue.

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Discussion paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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