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Migration and environmental change

Vulnerability and resilience scenarios

In light of environmental degradation and the adverse effects of climate change, people's vulnerability can increase or decrease in relation to the response and adaptation strategies that people and governments adopt, and the economic and social factors that condition them. The infographic below proposes three non-exhaustive scenarios:   

Scenario 1: Successful and supportive labour migration policies, economic incentives and opportunities mixed with sufficient household or individual assets allow people to migrate (safely) and to find good working conditions away from home. In this scenario, environmental migrants may engage in temporary migration for work or education, and send remittances back to their family and community, thus contributing to a successful long term in-situ adaptation in the place of origin. Others may settle successfully in a new location and decide to not return ‘home`. By proactively taking adaptation measures, the community becomes more resilient to environmental and climate change in the long term. 

Scenario 2: This scenario concerns households and communities with fewer economic and social resources, more limited policy support, and fewer in-situ adaptation and livelihood diversification strategies. These households are still able to resort to seasonal migration in order to diversify their revenues, and to foster in-situ short to medium-term coping strategies. As some coping strategies are in place, the vulnerability of the community eventually tends to decrease in the graph, however this is not always guaranteed, and in the longer-term the vulnerability level may increase.

Scenario 3: The lack of economic and social resources and the absence of supportive policies do not allow households to use migration to improve livelihoods or reduce exposure to hazards, and options for short-term or minimal in-situ coping initiatives are almost non-existent. The community remains “trapped” (Black et al., 2011) within the detrimental consequences of environmental degradation, unable to adapt, and its existence is reduced to mere survival strategies. Some people may engage in short-term proximity migration as a survival strategy to find work to buy food for their families, but do not manage to improve their situation in the long term. In the case of disaster-induced displacement, inability to return home due to persisting risks, and inability to resettle in an alternative place due to the lack of means, absence of supportive policies, or absence of alternative options, may result in protracted displacement. In all cases, the level of vulnerability of the community and households tends to increase in this scenario, which is often related to natural and man-made disasters (e.g. flood, storm, earthquake), or to extremely severe degradation of resources.


Black, R. et al. 
2011     Foresight: Migration and global environmental change, Final Project Report. The Government Office for Science, London.

Warner, K., et al. 
2012       Where the Rain Falls: Climate Change, Food and Livelihood Security, and Migration, Global Policy report. CARE and UNU-EHS, Bonn.

Global Project Coordinator, MECLEP
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