Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Climate-related migration estimates flawed, researchers say

IRIN: Many recent studies have put the number of climate-change-related migrants at between 200 million and one billion by 2050, but critics say given insufficient data it is impossible to estimate the number. Some say inflated figures have spurred “fear-of-migration” rhetoric from policymakers and leaders.

“It seems unlikely the alarmist predictions of hundreds of millions of environmental refugees moving as a result of climate change," says Cecilia Tacoli, senior researcher with London-based NGO the Institute of Environment and Eco-Development. Tacoli will publish a study 'Crisis or adaptation? Migration and climate change in a context of high mobility' in October.

"What is more likely is that we will see current high mobility trends continue and intensify, linked to income diversification." Projected migrant figures are based on estimates of the number of people living in areas most likely to be affected by climate change, rather than the number of people who are most likely to move, Tacoli says.

A study released 4 September by the UK government’s Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC), notes: “Climate change is an extremely complicated and complex process. Migration is equally a study in its own right. Drawing any direct causal relationships is not only methodologically wrong, it is dangerous.” One danger of inflating migrant figures, Tacoli says, is that it foments “fear” rhetoric among national leaders, many of whom now frame climate change as a national security issue.

Mariel refugees from Cuba arrive in Key West, 1980, US Department of Homeland Security

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