Climate Change and Migration: Security and Borders in a Warming World

Climate Change and Migration: Security and Borders in a Warming World

Climate Change and Migration: Security and Borders in a Warming World

Climate Change and Migration: Security and Borders in a Warming World

Synopsis

In the modern era, two types of international migration have consumed our attention: politically induced migration to flee war, genocide, and instability, and migration for economic reasons. Recently, though, another force has generated a new wave of refugees-global warming. Climate change hasaltered terrains and economies throughout the tropical regions of the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Central America to South and Southeast Asia. In Climate Change and Migration, Greg White provides a rich account of the phenomenon. Focusing on climate-induced migration from Africa to Europe, White shows how global warming's impact on international relations has been significant, enhancing the security regimes in not only the advancedeconomies of the North Atlantic, but in the states that serve as transit points between the most advanced and most desperate nations. Furthermore, he demonstrates that climate change has altered the way the nations involved view their own sovereignty, as tightening or defining borders in both Europeand North Africa leads to an increase of the state's reaches over society. White closes by arguing that a serious and comprehensive program to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change is the only long-term solution. With an in-depth coverage of both environmental and border policy from a global perspective, Climate Change and Migration provides aprovocative and much-needed link between two of the most pressing issues in contemporary international politics.

Excerpt

I have long been deeply interested in migration studies and environmental studies. Yet for many years the two intellectual passions rarely crossed paths. I published and taught courses on the two topics for many years, but basically kept them apart. In 2005, however, the two concerns began to merge, at least in my own thinking. During a seminar on “Green Diplomacy” one of my students presented a superb paper on how environmental change in the Aral Sea Basin had affected the region’s population movements. The resultant discussion was stimulating. Yet it was somehow incomplete. We felt comfortable with the discourse of political science: borders, the legacy of Soviet development projects, population displacements, efforts to improve diplomatic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. However, we were at a loss to engage natural-science issues associated with the ecological devastation in the Aral Sea. Hydrology, the water cycle, soil science, fisheries, and climate science were all clearly relevant, but we had no way of linking those concerns with our focus on political science. How do political factors interact with natural systems and vice versa? We talked at some length about what it would mean to be multi- and interdisciplinary. We imagined what it would be like for scholars to bridge international relations and environmental sciences, for social science to meet natural science. Imagine, I recall suggesting, a political scientist or legal scholar who was trained in environmental science, or vice versa.

That experience pushed me to explore the growing literature on environmental refugees and climate migration—that is, people compelled to travel because of climate change. Climate-induced migration (CIM) has been increasingly invoked in the context of African migration to Europe—a particular interest of mine because of my scholarship on migration politics in North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. The assertion has been made that immigration to Europe from Africa has and would be further driven by climate change. North African governments have also played a climate migration “diplomatic card” in their interactions with the EU, arguing that . . .

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