The U.S. Department of Defense’s recently-released Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap states: “As climate change affects the availability of food and water, human migration, and competition for natural resources, the Department’s unique capability to provide logistical, material, and security assistance on a massive scale or in rapid fashion may be called upon with increasing frequency.” Within this document, “human migration” is not a throwaway line. There are real concerns across governments, including those institutions normally focused on more traditional security risks, that climate change is, and will have, a marked effect on human migration. This article posits that the developed – not just the developing – world may need to seriously consider migration as a potentially viable adaptation option to climate change.
The migration option
The literature for overt migration as a climate adaptation option is minimal to non-existent. Yet the “migration as adaptation” concept is not without precedent. According to the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR), two of the top five threats to the United States of America are the low-levels of preparedness many systems in the U.S. have to deal with immigration and natural hazards, both of which could be exacerbated by climate change. The QHSR states: “Natural hazards are becoming more costly to address, with increasingly variable consequences due in part to drivers such as climate change and interdependent and aging infrastructure.” Perhaps the most emblematic example of a modern human migration challenge in response to a climatic event is the Gulf Coast of the United States. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi, permanently displacing from 100,000 to 300,000 residents, and generating around $34 billion in damage.
In this context, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid “migration” as one potential adaptation option for dealing with climate change disturbances.
For the complete article, please see Center for Climate and Security.