Climate Migration: A Primer in 2 Parts

I wrote a short, two-part piece on climate migration for the Global Human Movement Review, the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement blog. The first piece focuses on some of the misconceptions most commonly perpetuated in media and policy narratives. I emphasise that (1) migration is a multi-causal process that cannot be explained by climate change alone; and that (2) human mobilities take many different forms, not all of which are permanent and linear. I also issue a much needed reminder that (3) most migrants do not cross international borders. Beyond these analytical points, I also highlight that predictions of impending mass climate migrations are also concerning insofar as they are easily used to fuel xenophobic rhetoric and anti-immigration agendas. While pushing for climate action is a laudable aim, using the fear of climate migration for this purpose is to play a dangerous game. Nothing new here for anyone who has been following the debate. Other colleagues have already written better and more extensive pieces on this subject, but some things bear repeating.

The second piece takes a decolonial lens to climate migration. I’m no expert on decolonial theory, but given a platform about climate migration, it felt like a necessary aspect of the discussion, that doesn’t get enough attention. A lot of the knowledge production on climate migration is done within a narrow self-perpetuating elite circle, in which communities impacted by climate change get little input. That circle needs to be expanded. So, I draw on a handful of writings by indigenous groups and scholars to identify some practical ways in which research, narratives, and activism on climate migration could be decolonised.


Picture credit: Jules Xénard via Wikimedia Commons. “End of the world, end of month: change the system, not the climate”: waves of protest in France since 2018 have seen increasing discussions between climate and solidarity activists about how the movements can converge.