Environmental Migrants

Environmental Migrants

A Myth?

Jean-François Maystadt, Valerie Mueller
ifpri research brief
2012

Environmental migration has been the subject of lively debate in recent years. The conundrum over why experts’ global predictions of 50 million environmental refugees were not met in 2010 best captures how messages from advocacy and research can conflict with one another.

Recent International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) research lets us put this debate into perspective. Microlevel evidence has improved our understanding of how climate affects individual and household decisions to migrate over time in African and Asian countries. Macrolevel analyses help us assess whether such country-specific evidence may be systematic enough to constitute a global phenomenon.

This brief reviews recent evidence, examines main research challenges in identifying migration–climate links and discusses the policy options for formalizing migration as an adaptation mechanism to climate change.