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It should never be assumed that people on the move are problems to be solved, nor do they necessarily want to permanently move to the industrialised world. The world is a complex system already in flux. A mobilities perspective can direct fruitful attention to the agency and wellbeing of mobile people because it focuses less on the artificial question of what causes people to move, and more on facilitating safe mobility.
Mobility-related risks must be recognized and addressed.
But equally, new thinking is needed about mobile forms of livelihood diversification, contributing to adaptation to climate change across multiple sites. Deterioration into untenable living conditions is less likely when donors, governments and civil society seek to work with communities to build climate resilience, particularly through long-term structural changes such as access to education.
This can achieve results at a fraction of the cost of post-disaster relief or defence operations. Since international and national policy frameworks are often thwarted in climate change mobility planning by highly emotive politics, planning could be fruitfully focussed on the community level and be scaled upwards. Communities are neither apolitical nor homogenous; but the scale of communities may be more appropriate to debate and plan for the opportunities and effects of the displacement of individuals, households and communities, particularly within national borders.
Those experiencing stress and fear about losing their homes from slow-onset climate change impacts may benefit from participating in policy and planning processes that are both sensitive to their beliefs and needs, and empower them to make difficult choices. To date, policy and planning for climate change migration has typically been top-down, involving little collaboration with at-risk communities.
Capacity-building for community scale mobility planning is needed globally. Sensationalism is no substitute for science. These large numbers circulate as a self-referencing, self-evident claim largely divorced from science, something that should never be tolerated in evidence-based policy. The climate migration risk to international security should derive its legitimacy from science not sensationalism. Herein, we discussed diverse migration experiences and the associated health outcomes as analogues to explore the climate change—migration—health nexus. These are illustrative examples rather than predictive cases since migration experiences and outcomes are diverse and context based.
Thus, forecasting requires causal thinking that winds its way through uncertain climatic, environmental, geomorphological and population health contexts. A key fact for this emerging issue is the need to strengthen health systems to make them both more climate resilient and migrant inclusive. Further, there is a need for empirical evidence of the health impacts of climate-related migration, including for migrating populations and host communities, as well as populations left behind.
While there is emerging research that examines how migration can be an adaptive response to climate change, the health impacts — both positive and adverse — must be better understood. The central question is whether people, communities and nations can adopt migration as a response to climate change impacts, whilst safeguarding human health and well-being.
This requires a better understanding of risk of infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, food security, environmental exposures such as heat extremes, mental health and access to health services.
Areas of Action
Migration due to changes in natural environments is complex. The adaptive potential of migration cannot be assumed, particularly as migration itself can induce health risks. Rights-based health and governance frameworks are required such that migrating communities have the opportunity to build healthy lives in sites of resettlement or relocation. We should strive for research, science, governance and policy that contributes to healthy futures and synergises with the broader development agenda. All authors contributed equally and approved the final manuscript.
The health impacts of climate-related migration
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Patricia Schwerdtle, Email: ude. Kathryn Bowen, Email: ua. Celia McMichael, Email: ua. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. BMC Med. Published online Dec Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Received Aug 30; Accepted Nov This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background Changes in climate, in conjunction with other drivers of mobility, shape human migration.
Discussion This paper examines the links between climate change, migration, and health, considering diverse migration responses, including immobility, forced displacement and planned migration, as well as the associated health risks and opportunities in different contexts. Conclusion While there is an increasing body of research examining the climate change—migration nexus, a dual approach is now required. The nexus between climate change, migration, and health Human migration in response to ecological change has been occurring since the origin of our species [ 1 ], yet the push that anthropogenic climate change is currently exerting on human migration is relatively new and gradually intensifying [ 2 ].
Health risks Climate change affects human health. Open in a separate window.
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Planned relocation in Papua New Guinea Planned relocation occurs when populations are moved in a preemptive and coordinated way. Immobility and in situ adaptation in Alaska For many communities exposed to climate change impacts, migration is not possible. Forced displacement and planned return in South Sudan Planned return, also referred to as assisted return, involves financial, logistic and administrative re-integration support to displaced populations returning home. Rural—urban migration in Northern Australia Rural to urban migration involves temporary or permanent population movement from rural settings to urban centres.
Temporary and circular mobility in Colombia and Spain Circular mobility is a temporary form of migration where the migrant worker, family or community moves between home and host areas typically for the purposes of employment [ 34 ]. Response strategies The case studies above illustrate diverse migration responses that communities and governments employ in retort to environmental change. Conclusion Herein, we discussed diverse migration experiences and the associated health outcomes as analogues to explore the climate change—migration—health nexus.
Acknowledgements Not applicable. Funding Not applicable. Availability of data and materials Not applicable. Ethics approval and consent to participate Not applicable. Consent for publication Not applicable. Competing interests The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Contributor Information Patricia Schwerdtle, Email: ude. References 1. Finlayson C. Biogeography and evolution of the genus Homo. Trends Ecol Evol. An ill wind? Climate change, migration and health.
Environ Health Perspect. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Foresight: Migration and Global Environmental Change. London: The Government Office for Science; Livelihood resilience in the face of climate change.
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Philos Trans R Soc. Reuveny R. Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict. Political Geog.