New Approaches to Climate Change and Migration: Building the Adaptive Capacity of Mobile Populations
It is often assumed that there is a direct link between climate change and human mobility, and that mobility is evidence of a failure to adapt to changing conditions. The reality is much more complex. Worsening climate conditions can lead to a variety of mobility outcomes: some individuals or communities may be trapped in place, while others may choose to stay and develop local adaptation strategies; some may choose to move to mitigate risks or diversify household incomes, while others may be forced to leave. And all of this is occurring against a backdrop of globalization and urbanization, in which mobility and translocal networks are already significant parts of many people’s lives.
This report examines the concept of “adaptive capacity” and how it can be useful in understand the relationship between climate change and migration, as well as the ways mobility can be a strategic choice—or a source of greater vulnerability. Drawing on examples from the Pacific Islands, Asia, and other regions, the report analyzes the limitations of existing responses to climate change and outlines an alternative, adaptation pathways model that is flexible and emphasizes the involvement of affected communities.
Adopting an adaptation pathways approach, the author writes, could help avoid a common pitfall of climate change adaptation measures: that they are often top down and do not integrate local knowledge, cultures, and other important contextual factors. Failure to consult local communities can lead measures to backfire or create greater vulnerabilities elsewhere, while a more participatory, flexible approach can bring to light important local insights and yield stronger solutions that are able to respond to future developments.
2 The Relationship between Adaptation and Mobility
3 Adaptation Strategies in Mobile Populations
4 The Limitations of Existing Adaptation Measures
5 Adaptation Pathways: An Alternative Approach
6 Conclusions and Recommendations