Climate Disasters and Migration: The Importance of International Policy in Addressing Climate Displacement

A blog post by Samuel Stewart, Junior Associate

Research and evidence for climate change are strong, yet, we have an underdeveloped understanding of how climate change will impact human populations in different regions.[1] Climate migration refers to “the movement of a person or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment due to climate change, are obliged to leave their habitual place of residence or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, within a State or across an international border”[2] Environmental factors combined with other drivers of migration, including poverty, socioeconomic inequality, political insecurity, conflict, make climate-induced migration a complex, interconnected issue.[3]

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an average of 21.5 million people have been displaced as a result of climate-related hazards since 2006.[4] A recent report predicts that as many as 1.2 billion peoplecould be displaced by 2050 due to climate change.[5] As the effects of climate change become more serious, climate-induced migration is expected to increase dramatically. In order to adequately address this anticipated increase, it is necessary to understand climate migration patterns and develop a comprehensive framework to resettle climate-displaced persons without disturbing social cohesion in the receiving state.

            Agreements between states to resettle climate-displaced persons would address the uncertainty associated with displacement. It could also mitigate displacement by moving at-risk populations before natural disasters force resettlement. Strategies to integrate displaced persons into the local economy would give them the opportunity to reestablish themselves and contribute to economic growth. Plans to absorb climate displaced-persons can also offset violence that often occurs when people are resettled into areas that are ill-equipped to deal with an increase in population. Overall, a comprehensive, international approach to address climate displacement will play an important role in protecting human rights in the face of climate change.



[1] Oli Brown, Migration and Climate Change, International Organization for Migration, 2008, at 12.

[2] International Organization for Migration, Glossary on Migration,

[3] Eliza Pan, Reimagining The Climate Migration Paradigm: Bridging Conceptual Barries to Climate Migration Responses, 50 Envtl. L. 1173 (2020).

[4] There could be 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050. Here is what you need to know,, Zurich Magazine (Sept. 27, 2022),; Environmental Migration, Migration Data Portal (2022), (last visited Mar. 9, 2023).

[5] Id.

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