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The health impacts of climate-related migration

Changes in climate, in conjunction with other drivers of mobility, shape human migration. While there is an increasing focus on the adaptive potential of migration, the health impacts of climate-related migration, including planned relocation and forced displacement, have not been thoroughly examined. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that migration is currently, and will increasingly be, influenced by environmental degradation and climate change, and that it needs to be addressed in a focused and coordinated manner.

This paper examines the links between climate change, migration, and health, considering diverse migration responses, including immobility, forced displacement and planned migration, as well as the associated health risks and opportunities in different contexts. Using case studies, the paper illustrates strategies to reduce the health risks associated with climate change-related migration.

The nexus between climate change, migration, and health

Human migration in response to ecological change has been occurring since the origin of our species [1], yet the push that anthropogenic climate change is currently exerting on human migration is relatively new and gradually intensifying [2]. Environmental changes associated with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations include flooding, drought, increased frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters, and sea-level rise [3]. Globally, these environmental changes are shaping human migration, particularly through their intersection with other economic, political and social drivers of mobility [4]. Climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing sociopolitical and economic vulnerabilities, undermining livelihoods [5], inflating the risk of conflict [6], and making it difficult for people to remain in situ [7].

Conclusion

While there is an increasing body of research examining the climate change–migration nexus, a dual approach is now required. This approach must include debate and further research regarding the health consequences and responses associated with climate migration as well as immediate strengthening of health systems to make them both climate resilient and migrant inclusive.