For tens of thousands of years, humans have migrated as a means of survival. Movement is a tool for adaptation, not inherently good or bad, but it does now depend on facilitation from nation-states to ensure the safety and well-being of both the people moving and the host country. Today, climate change is creating uninhabitable conditions like rising sea levels, long droughts, and extreme storms.
“As individuals, families, and entire communities facing the fallout of a changing climate decide to relocate, it will transform the human geography of the planet,” a report on climate migration from the RAND corporation found. At the end of 2021, “Addressing Climate Migration” was released to understand various government’s responses to people needing to move due to the environmental factors overtaking their homes and communities.
The report looked at six different nation-states and compartmentalized components of their climate mobility policies into five categories: “mobility control, social protection, built environment and physical adaptation, government reform, and planned relocation.”
In a conversation with NPR, Jay Balagna, one of the report’s authors, explained that movement and migration are not “inherently bad.” Rather, the movement becomes a positive or negative experience depending on whether or not nation-states have implemented policies that ensure “[movement] happens in a safe and just way.” When such policies are prioritized both the person moving and the host country benefit.
“Most climate migrants are expected to move within their home countries,” the report states, which places more pressure on the governments of these home countries to establish policies and systems that encompass the five categories the report outlines.
In this report, climate mobility is described as “official government laws, regulations, and directives designed to shape the mobility actions and outcomes of people affected by climate change.”
Balagna highlighted Bangladesh’s policy, referred to as their “national strategy on the management of disaster and climate induced internal displacement,” as one example of a policy that both protects those needing to move and the host country facilitating that movement.
Bangladesh’s policy also included measures for reconciliation and social protections for climate migrants, Balagna explained. Reconciliatory measures are those that adapt to the ever-increasing and unpredictable nature of climate change. They “[emphasize] the need to adapt and transform in the face of shocks and stresses,” the report explains.
The government of Bangladesh has also implemented social protections to help mitigate the negative impacts movement can have on access to resources like food, water, education, and work.
The report states that “when a person’s livelihood has been or could be harmed by climate change, such policies promote alternative sources of income.” Such a strategy helps support the economies of both people who need to move and the host countries they are moving throughout.
Pope Francis has called Catholics to adopt a stronger commitment to caring for our Earth and for those already impacted by climate change. This commitment might look like advocating for policies that facilitate safe movement, solidarity with those on the move, and holding major companies and industries accountable for their effect on climate change.