E.g., 06/09/2021
E.g., 06/09/2021

Expert Q&A

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Technically, people forced to move because of climate disasters are not considered “refugees.” But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees still takes climate issues into account, and since 2020 Andrew Harper has been its special advisor on climate action. We talked with Harper about his agency’s role in responding to climate issues, which regions are most likely to be affected by climate impacts, and why climate is a “vulnerability multiplier” for refugees.

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Popular discussions usually frame climate change-induced migration negatively, often as a strategy of last resort. But migrating abroad can also be an effective way to build resilience against the impacts of climate change. This episode discusses how migration can bring social, economic, and other benefits to migrants and their communities, in conversation with University of Vienna human geographer Harald Sterly.

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Hundreds of thousands of migrants have left Central America in recent years, and climate extremes have been identified as one of the factors that might be driving this movement, along with elements such as political instability and violence. In this episode, we hear from geographer and climatologist Diego Pons, of Colorado State University, to dissect how changing climate, food insecurity, and migration intersect in this region.

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Climate change and international migration both are global issues with aspects that countries try to manage through treaties, pacts, and other types of agreements. But most of the global governance frameworks that exist for climate-induced migration require only voluntary commitments by states. This episode features a discussion with political scientist Nick Micinski, author of the forthcoming books, UN Global Compacts: Governing Migrants and Refugees and Delegating Responsibility: International Cooperation on Migration in the European Union.

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Among the earliest examples of the disruptions that climate change can bring, some low-lying island countries in the Pacific Ocean are facing serious threats from rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Over the long term, atoll nations such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands might eventually need to relocate some or all of their populations. But not everyone wants to migrate, and governments have balanced supporting people who relocate with other ways of adapting to changing conditions.

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Climate change is already affecting how, whether, and where people migrate. But environmental change is likely to become more extreme in the coming decades, unless the world takes serious action now. How might changes made now impact what future migration looks like? This episode features a conversation with Robert McLeman, a geographer and environmental studies expert at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, about the possible scenarios that lie ahead for the relationship between climate change and migration, depending on how countries act in the next few decades.

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Reliable access to food—or lack thereof—can affect an individual’s decision to migrate. Climate change has the ability to exacerbate food insecurity, especially for farmers and others who live off the land, which can have repercussions for human mobility. In this episode we talk with Megan Carney, an anthropologist and director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Regional Food Studies, to examine the role of food security in the connection between climate change and migration.

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Billions of dollars are being spent on projects to help communities mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, including those at risk of being displaced by environmental events. This episode features Timo Schmidt, from MPI Europe, in a discussion about the growing field of climate finance and its implications for migration management and displacement prevention.

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Pre-COVID-19, we lived in a hyper-global world. There were 1.5 billion international tourism trips annually, nearly 40 million flights, and 272 million international migrants. This raises a provocative question: Does international mobility contribute to the spread of pandemics? In this episode, we speak with Michael Clemens and Thomas Ginn of the Center for Global Development. Drawing on their research of global pandemics dating as far back as 1889, they make the case that limits on cross-border mobility delay the arrival of pathogens by a matter of days at best.

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Confronting environmental change, whole communities sometimes relocate from one area to another. This purposeful, coordinated movement, while currently rare, is referred to as managed retreat. In this episode Architesh Panda, from the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, explains how this climate adaptation strategy works in India.

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