Climate and risk of migration in South Africa

Authored by: Rachel Licker , Marina Mastrorillo

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:

10.4324/9781315638843-16

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Abstract

In this chapter, we examine the sources of vulnerability within South Africa that may interact with climate to influence future migration flows. South Africa is a country with a strong culture of internal migration, and is projected to experience significant increases in temperature as a result of anthropogenic climate change. We focus on migration as one potential strategy that residents may use to adapt to unprecedented changes in climate. One important source of vulnerability in South Africa lies across income and race lines. South Africa has one of the highest levels of inequality of the world. Furthermore, race and income are highly correlated; White South Africans earn approximately 11 times more per year than their black South African counterparts, although income differences across racial lines have shown some improvements since the end of apartheid. Previous work finds that flows of black and low-income South African migrants are strongly influenced by climatic variables relative to other demographic groups. As a result, black and poor migrants tend to be more vulnerable to climate variability and may be forced to use migration as an adaptation strategy. Furthermore, the evidence on the negative effects of climate change on agricultural output raises concern for the livelihood of South African individuals dependent on rainfed agriculture – individuals who could be pushed to migrate to other rural areas or cities because their lands are no longer profitable. We conclude that, on the one hand, changing temperature regimes may disproportionately amplify the migration of black and lower-income, highly vulnerable South Africans. On the other hand, given the evidence that the probability of migration is lower for lower-income individuals, there is also a risk of some low-income individuals being unable to move in response to climate hazards.

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