Climate migration between conflictive discourses and empirical realities

I.J.C. Boas*, H. Wiegel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter discusses the contested nature of various discourses around climate change-induced migration, and offers a mobilities approach as an alternative lens to examine the issue. Climate migration has often framed in alarmist terms, assuming that environmental changes will result in mass cross-border migration, possibly resulting in conflict. This discourse has been heavily criticized as being simplistic and unfounded, but keeps on finding its way back into scientific and policy debates. A main competing frame is the migration-as-adaptation discourse, emphasizing how migration is not something abnormal and can actually function as a way for communities to find new livelihoods in the face of climate change. But also this discourse has been criticized for disregarding issues of justice. We end by proposing the mobilities approach as a suitable alternative. This approach highlights that we should not presume what migration looks like in the context of a changing climate, nor what its implications are. In contrast, we should critically assess in practice what it means to move, or not move, and how this takes shape. Adopting such an approach could make political discourse and governance developments on the environmental change-human mobility nexus more attuned to the diverse ways in which people try to cope with environmental changes through their mobility, and highlights the need for more awareness of the ways that underlying social inequalities shape people’s vulnerability and mobile capacities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on the Governance and Politics of Migration
EditorsE. Carmel, K. Lenner, R. Paul
PublisherEdward Elgar
ISBN (Electronic)9781788117234
ISBN (Print)9781788117227
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021

Publication series

NameElgar Handbooks in Migration
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing


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