Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law

By in Emigration & Immigration on August 15, 2013

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Displacement caused by climate change is an area of growing concern. With current rises in sea levels and changes to the global climate, it is an issue of fundamental importance to the future of many parts of the world.

This book critically examines whether States have obligations to protect people displaced by climate change under international refugee law, international human rights law, and the international law on statelessness. Drawing on field work undertaken in Bangladesh, India, and the Pacific island States of Kiribati and Tuvalu, it evaluates whether the phenomenon of ‘climate change-induced displacement’ is an empirically sound category for academic inquiry. It does so by examining the reasons why people move (or choose not to move); the extent to which climate change, as opposed to underlying socio-economic factors, provides a trigger for such movement; and whether traditional international responses, such as the conclusion of new treaties and the creation of new institutions, are appropriate solutions in this context. In this way, the book queries whether flight from habitat destruction should be viewed as another facet of traditional international protection or as a new challenge requiring more creative legal and policy responses.

One thought on “Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law

  1. 1
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Extremely Important, Developing Field, June 29, 2012
    Publius (Vermont) –

    This review is from: Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law (Hardcover)

    This is one of the first books about the subject, and it is very worthwhile: it has a fresh analysis and it’s well researched, thorough, and well written. It has a very impressive Bibliography (23pp); a good index; and a comprehensive Table of Treaties, Other International Instruments and Legislation (5pp).

    It’s unfortunate it’s so expensive! ($113-140 when I wanted it), so I got my law library to purchase it. 🙂 (It’s written like an extended law-review article by a law professor with footnotes taking up 1/2 of many of the pages.)

    My only criticism, which almost makes me want to give it 4-stars, is that it says, “Since two degrees Celsius warming is the benchmark that underscores most climate modelling and emissions targets, and is implicit in studies of the social impacts of climate change, it is adopted in this book… some scientists now argue that IPCC’s estimates are conservative and that change may be occurring faster than anticipated. There has been little analysis in the social sciences of the impacts of temperature rise beyond two degrees Celsius, but it seems clear that if warming were to exceed four degrees Selsius [sic!], the impacts could be significantly different since such temperature increases could threaten people’s very survival in certain parts of the world.”

    First, a great book on the social impact of more realistic impacts is Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats by Gwynne Dyer (2011). Second, because 2C is such an awful assumption, this migration book and its analysis is already out-of-date. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best book out there (for now) and a great starting point. I hope to see another book soon that takes into consideration more realistic predictions of 4C, 6C, and beyond. Using this 2C assumption ignores 4-6 years of critical research (as of 2012), and underestimates beyond-worst case scenarios that are being realized b/c it fails to account for amplyfying feedbacks.

    And I almost want to give it 1-star for its flawed analysis and poor scientific research. For example, it says that the book’s third premise (p.5) is that “Most movement is likely to be internal.” Well, when you consider that new predictions for sea level rise (SLR) are 5 meters (16.4 feet) by 2100 rather than 0.9-1.8m (3ft), that premise can’t hold water. When you consider that 4C is now predicted by 2060, which is just a way-point to 6C to 10C or more by 2100, this also significantly undermines this premise, and the other 6 premises as well. The non-scientific community, especially the legal, policy and media communities, are way underestimating the fact that the system is already in a “runaway” state and that abrupt changes should be expected before mid-century, and possibly within the next decade. While scientists warn us that changes pose a threat to the continuation of civilization, books like this warn of unrealisticly mild effects and assume a continuity of the nation-state and legal systems. In this way, books like this do not use the best available science and make many wrong assumptions. Dramatic and urgent adaptation policies are necessary and it’s a profound missed opportunity for books like this.

    But like I said, it’s still a very worthwhile read! We’ve got to work with what we’ve got.

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