Climate-Induced Human Displacement
and Migration

Presented by the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

This event focused on the problems of migration in response to failed
adaptation and as an adaptation strategy.

L. Craig Johnstone, UNHCR, noted that adaptation to climate change should
include improved disaster response. He noted that estimates range from 250
million to over one billion refugees by 2050 and that flows may be gradual or
sudden, from storms, conflicts, and natural disasters.

Philippe Boncour, International Organization for Migration, noted the climate
change regime does not address migration. He noted that climate change is only
one cause for migration, and that migration can be positive if it produces
remittances, skills or livelihoods, or allows a degraded environment to

Koko Warner, UN University, reported on a global survey of climate
change-migration links, noting developing countries’ vulnerability and
implications for international peace and security. She reported findings that:
climate change migrants are more varied than traditional ones; environmental
factors already influence decisions to migrate; and mass migrations may be
triggered by irreversible ecosystem changes.

Neils Scott, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, noted that
the view that mitigation would minimize the need to adapt has been proven
wrong. He said nine-tenths of natural disasters are already climate related,
bringing diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. He said climate change
multiplies threats and exacerbates struggles over scarce resources, migration
and armed conflict. He noted that many areas suffering climate-related floods,
storms or droughts also have had recent conflicts or contested governance.

Elisabeth Rasmusson, Norwegian Refugee Council, reported on differences in protection
provided for people displaced: voluntarily or by force; from environmental
causes or conflict; within or across borders; and who have or have not lost
territory due to the impacts of climate change. She called for strengthening
protection regimes for displaced people and refugees, and for legal migration
regimes to accommodate pre-emptive migration.

Participants highlighted, inter alia: migration as an adaptation instrument;
the environmental effects and increased vulnerability of areas of emigration;
the needs of internally displaced people; and integration of migration
strategies in disaster preparations.