Migration and climate change: Environmental vulnerability and location choice in Bangladesh

Project Active from to Cities

Climate change is poised to have dramatic effects on livelihoods around the world. In an effort to minimize the damages, individuals and policymakers alike will seek out strategies for mitigation and adaptation. While migration is only one of several possible strategies, it warrants special attention. Migration is an extreme response to environmental risk, used when other mechanisms for mitigation/adaptation are lacking.

It is crucial to obtain a better understanding of environmental migration, in order to ascertain how population flows will evolve with climate change and to adopt effective policies for mitigation, adaptation, and relief. Large population flows will require larger policy responses, with greater challenges to local infrastructure and regional planning. Where individuals can engage in migration proactively, policy efforts too should be proactive in facilitating relocation and supporting the communities receiving new migrants. However, many lack the resources for migration, so policy efforts also need to carefully weigh mitigation efforts against relief efforts, while considering the likelihood of catastrophic events, probable losses, and the scope for recovery. The spatial distribution of the population will also shift as individuals move away from environmentally vulnerable areas.

  • This project utilises an innovative data collection technique to provide estimates of population mobility motivated by environmental stress.
  • Building on existing household surveys, researchers conduct follow-up surveys via mobile phones. This approach is unique in that it can provide high frequency data on mobility, essential in a context where individuals often migrate over short distances and for short (<3 months) periods of time, allowing researchers to assess both the extent and the efficacy of migration as adaptation.
  • Data on migration are paired with state-of-the-art climate and environmental data, derived from a combination of remote sensing, geodetic, and on-site sources.
  • The project focuses on Bangladesh, one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to the adverse effects of climate change. Migration is studied within the context of other adaptation and mitigation efforts in order to gain a complete picture of local resilience.