Climate Change Migration in Asia

We tend to think of climate-linked migration as unplanned, chaotic movement. But it also takes the form of planned, organized projects to move away from places badly affected by climate change. These projects are not always successful, and the people being “relocated” are not always willing participants. But countries across Asia and the Pacific have been at the forefront of these relocations and the rest of the world must learn from the successes and problems.

The media tends to gloss over the different kinds of climate-linked migration that are happening. The idea of a “climate refugees” conjures images of people fleeing drought or sea level rise; traveling together in huge numbers and across international borders. But climate-linked movement really falls into three distinct categories: displacement, migration, and planned relocation.

Displacement is when people are forced to move. They have no choice about where or when they go; moving is simply about ensuring their immediate survival. This is typical after sudden climate-linked disasters, like Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Conversely, migration linked to climate change suggests people have more choice in where and when they go. People often migrate as situations such as drought and water stress become gradually worse.

UN Photo/Martine Perret


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