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Who Counts as a Climate Migrant?

Lecturing Fellow Kerilyn Schewel discusses which migrants should count as climate migrants in a new Migration Policy Institute article.

Kerilyn Schewel, lecturing fellow at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) and co-director of the Program on Climate-Related Migration, explores which migrants should count as climate migrants in an article published by the Migration Information Source, the online journal of the Migration Policy Institute.

Kerilyn Schewel
Kerilyn Schewel

"Recent research suggests that in a worst-case scenario, as much as 39 percent of the global population, currently at 8 billion, could live in environments outside the 'human climate niche,' which provides the most appropriate conditions for human life, by the end of the century," Schewel writes in "Who Counts as a Climate Migrant?"

"Yet, how people move—or do not move—in response to climate hazards promises to be as mixed and messy as migration has always been. Climate change will leave its mark on all kinds of human mobility, including refugee and survival migration, labor migration, migration for education, and family reunification."

In the article, Schewel reviews definitions of climate migration and questions the value of such a definition. She explores the difficulties of distinguishing climate migrants from other kinds of economic or humanitarian migrants, particularly in low- and lower-middle income countries, and highlights that the populations most vulnerable to climate change are often those who cannot migrate.

Read the full article.