Environmental migrants, climate ‘refugees’ and sun-seeking expats

Capturing the larger context of migration in a changing climate through appropriate and effective behavioural research

Authored by: Dominic Kniveton , Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson , Christopher D. Smith

Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138194465
eBook ISBN: 9781315638843
Adobe ISBN:


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The question of how migration patterns will be influenced by environmental and climate change has received much attention within policy and academic circles. This focus can be explained in part by fears voiced by an alarmist group of migration scholars regarding uncontrolled population movements over country borders at the hands of a changing climate. This chapter explores the undercurrents driving widespread interest in the interaction between climate change and migration. In so doing, it explores how narratives around migration have been shaped by the use of certain terminology or ways to define, theorise, facilitate and problematise the movement of people. Current understanding of the interactions between the environment and human migration are characterised by a high degree of complexity and uncertainty. A wide range of methods and theoretical frameworks have thus been developed that seek to expand our understanding of its dynamics. Despite methodological and conceptual advances within the field, we propose that future research and policy must consider the loaded nature of language and the ways in which terms such as ‘climate change’ and ‘migration’ are interpreted. Care must be taken to ensure that the development of actions and policy initiatives truly serve to protect and benefit affected people, whether they are on the move, have arrived in a new destination, or are immobile and want but are unable to move.

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