Environment and Migration


Massive population displacements are regularly forecasted as one of climate change’s most dramatic consequences. The nexus between environmental change and migratory dynamics are however far more complex than the usual causal and direct Relationship portrayed by media and policy-makers. Building upon extensive fieldwork, this class aims to examine the reality of migratory flows associated with environmental disruptions – those induced by climate change, of course, but also those induced by other causes such as industrial accidents. A second part of the class addresses the policy responses that have been implemented so far, as well as those that are envisioned for the future.

The seminar will feature numerous guest speakers: scholars as well as practitioners and representatives from NGOs and international organisations (IOM, UNHCR, Red Cross…)


Session 1 – Jan 20th                       

Presentation of the seminar


Session 2 – Jan 27th                        

Historical context


Climates of Migration: http://climatesofmigration.org/

Rousseau and Voltaire on the Lisbon disaster: http://geophysics-old.tau.ac.il/personal/shmulik/LisbonEq-letters.htm

Warriors of the Pacific


Historical context

Part I: Empirical realities

Session 3 – Feb 3rd                             

Migration and brutal disasters, from the Great Fire of London (1666) to the Fukushima accident (2011)


Disaster induced internal displacement in the Philippines 2013 – IDMC

Indian Ocean Tsunami – IOM

Hasegawa – Evacuation Fukushima – Iddri Study

What’s in a name – Katrina – Gemenne



Session 4 – Feb 10th                          

Migration and slow-onset events: sea-level rise, desertification, and deforestation.


Jonsson – The environmental factor in migration dynamics

Tacoli – Not Only Climate Change


Slow-onset events

Session 5 – Feb 17th

Displaced by the sate: the case of resettlement                           



Science-2011-de Sherbinin-456-7-1



Part II: Tools and Methods

Session 6 – March 3rd 

Conceptualising the environment-migration nexus: methodological tools                      



Obokata et al. – Review of Empirical Research – Population and Environment

Piguet – Methodological Overview


Methodological issues

Session 7 – March 10th                    

Counting and mapping the migrants: quantitative issues.

Gemenne – Why numbers don’t add up

Feng, Krueger, Oppenheimer – 2010 – Linkages among climate change, crop yields and Mexico–US cross-border migration

Crisp – 1999 – Who has counted the refugees? UNHCR and the politics of numbers


Quantitative methods


A sample agent-based model: NetLogo

Part III: Policy responses

Session 8 – March 17th                    

Migration and adaptation to climate change.

Black – Migration As Adaptation -Nature 2011

Barnett & Webber – Accomodating Migration


Adaptation and Migration

Session 9 – March 24th                    

Legal protection: migrants without status.

No session on March 31st

Session 10 – April 7th                        

Discourses and representations

Case-study is due

No session on April 14th

Session 11 – Date TBC                     

Working session on the case-study reports

Session 12 – Date TBC                     

Conclusion: A specific category of migrants?

Selected bibliography

Asian Development Bank (2011) Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific. ADB, Manila

Black, R. (1998) Refugees, Environment and Development. Harlow (UK): Addison Wesley Longman.

Boano, C., R. Zetter, et T. Morris (2007) « Environmentally displaced people: Understanding the linkages between environmental change, livelihoods and forced migration ». Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre.

Brown, O. (2008) ‘Migration and Climate Change’. IOM Migration Research Series. Geneva: International Organisation for Migration.

EACH-FOR, Environmental Changes and Forced Migration Scenarios : www.each-for.eu

Foresight (2011) « Migration and Global Environmental Change. Final Project Report. » The Government Office for Science, London.

Gemenne, F. (2011) Why the numbers don’t add up: A review of estimates and predictions of people displaced by environmental changes. Global Environmental Change 21 (S1):41-49

McAdam, J. (Ed.) (2010) Climate Change and Displacement. Multidisciplinary Perspectives. London: Hart.

Piguet, Etienne. 2008. « Climate change and forced migration. » In New issues in refugee research. Geneva: UNHCR.


25% of the mark will be based on the students’ active involvement in the seminars’ discussions. 75% of the mark will be based on a case-study to hand in by April 7th, 2014. Each student will choose a different case-study. Students will have to describe the ongoing migration dynamics associated with environmental changes in that region. The case-studies should be prepared with a view to publication. See the guidelines of the State of Environmental Migration for further guidance.


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