Monday, April 23, 2012

When the Climate Tells You It's Time to Go

In "Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific," an 80-page report released March 13, 2012, by the Asian Development Bank, researchers attempt to tease out climate change factors from the many other factors driving migration and displacement in the region expected to sustain the worst population impacts from climate change.
[I]t [is] hard to predict with any degree of certainty the number of people who will be displaced by climate change. However, it is possible to identify the processes by which these migrations will occur, as well as the places where they are most likely to happen. This is what this report aims to do, focusing on extreme weather events, water stress and land degradation, and sea-level rise.
Based on one report I read from the International Organization on Migration (Migration and Climate Change, from Oli Brown, 2008), those who STAY worry me more than those who GO. The ADB report addresses this in their chapter "Strengthening Adaptation Through Migration" (from page 46):
At the same time that an increasing number of populations find themselves forced to move because of climate change, significant numbers of populations often find themselves forced to stay. Climate change could indeed prevent the most vulnerable from migrating, as their resources will be reduced [...]. 
I like that this report (a) doesn't raise alarms about invading hoards of poor climate migrants sweeping up on rich countries' shores (which Brown calls out as a myth in his 2008 report) and (b) points to the need to anticipate and plan for wise migration rather than waiting for it to happen on its own, possibly in ways that leave people in greater danger.

Basically, where Asian Pacific countries are concerned, good migration policies make good neighbors! This has always been true, but the pressure is on to strengthen these policies now. The report ends on this note:

Governments at all levels, regional bodies, and international organizations have a responsibility to act with urgency on this issue. They have before them an opportunity to shape a future of human mobility that promotes better, more inclusive living conditions for the people of the world’s most populous region. 

You can't force a person to move out of harm's way, but you can-- and governments must-- create the conditions that allow for safe passage to a better place when the climate tells you it's time to go.

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