Tag Archives: Refugees

Drought and conflict can spur climate refugees

How do you identify climate refugees? And is climate change at the heart of the flow of asylum-seekers? Statistics can offer a cautious answer.

LONDON, 25 January, 2019 − Austrian researchers have made it simpler to identify climate refugees, claiming to have established a direct causal link between climate change, conflict and the numbers of migrants.

They are not the first to confirm that there is a statistical association between the likelihood of drought, or heat extremes, and violence. Evidence of cause for any civil or international conflict is always complex and often disputed.

But researchers now say that mathematical techniques provide an indirect connection between formally-established drought conditions and recorded levels of applications for asylum.

“In a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources”

The link is conflict, of the kind observed in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Climate change will not cause conflict and subsequent asylum-seeking flows everywhere,” said Jesus Crespona Cuaresma of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“But in a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources.”

Specific conditions

He and colleagues report in the journal Global Environmental Change that they looked at data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees of asylum applications from 157 countries between 2006 and 2015.

They then matched the patterns of asylum bids against conditions in their parent countries, using a measure that scientists call the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index, which provides a guide to the gap between rainfall and heat and drought.

They next assembled a tally measure of battle-related deaths collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme in Sweden. Then they modelled other factors, such as the distance between the countries of origin and destination, the sizes of populations, the migrant networks, the political status of the drought-stressed countries and the known divisions into ethnic and religious groups.

And they found that – in specific circumstances – climatic conditions do lead to increased migration as a consequence of conflict exacerbated by the more severe droughts.

Hard to establish

All conclusions about human behaviour at the political level are difficult to establish. Archaeologists and climate scientists have repeatedly linked the collapse of ancient civilisations to climate change but in most such cases the evidence is circumstantial, and incomplete.

But there is often little or no direct testimony from the faraway past, and no surviving voice to offer a challenge. The connection between climate conditions and human response is less certain in a disputed world.

Researchers have systematically found associations between climate and violence and between climate and the conditions for civil inequality.

Urgent prospect

Some have found an association between drought and the conflict in Syria, but others have disputed the conclusion. Researchers have warned that future climate change could create large numbers of migrants and climate refugees and that both issues are urgent.

But it remains more difficult to establish that climate is the only or even the most pressing factor in any individual case.

So the IIASA finding is a cautious one, backed, the scientists say, by statistical rigour. This identifies climate change, and migration flow, and finds conflict as the causal mediator which links the two, most obviously in the events in the Middle East and North Africa since 2006.

“Our results suggest that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, play a statistically significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum-seeking exclusively for countries that were affected by the Arab Spring,” they write. − Climate News Network

How do you identify climate refugees? And is climate change at the heart of the flow of asylum-seekers? Statistics can offer a cautious answer.

LONDON, 25 January, 2019 − Austrian researchers have made it simpler to identify climate refugees, claiming to have established a direct causal link between climate change, conflict and the numbers of migrants.

They are not the first to confirm that there is a statistical association between the likelihood of drought, or heat extremes, and violence. Evidence of cause for any civil or international conflict is always complex and often disputed.

But researchers now say that mathematical techniques provide an indirect connection between formally-established drought conditions and recorded levels of applications for asylum.

“In a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources”

The link is conflict, of the kind observed in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Climate change will not cause conflict and subsequent asylum-seeking flows everywhere,” said Jesus Crespona Cuaresma of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“But in a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources.”

Specific conditions

He and colleagues report in the journal Global Environmental Change that they looked at data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees of asylum applications from 157 countries between 2006 and 2015.

They then matched the patterns of asylum bids against conditions in their parent countries, using a measure that scientists call the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index, which provides a guide to the gap between rainfall and heat and drought.

They next assembled a tally measure of battle-related deaths collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme in Sweden. Then they modelled other factors, such as the distance between the countries of origin and destination, the sizes of populations, the migrant networks, the political status of the drought-stressed countries and the known divisions into ethnic and religious groups.

And they found that – in specific circumstances – climatic conditions do lead to increased migration as a consequence of conflict exacerbated by the more severe droughts.

Hard to establish

All conclusions about human behaviour at the political level are difficult to establish. Archaeologists and climate scientists have repeatedly linked the collapse of ancient civilisations to climate change but in most such cases the evidence is circumstantial, and incomplete.

But there is often little or no direct testimony from the faraway past, and no surviving voice to offer a challenge. The connection between climate conditions and human response is less certain in a disputed world.

Researchers have systematically found associations between climate and violence and between climate and the conditions for civil inequality.

Urgent prospect

Some have found an association between drought and the conflict in Syria, but others have disputed the conclusion. Researchers have warned that future climate change could create large numbers of migrants and climate refugees and that both issues are urgent.

But it remains more difficult to establish that climate is the only or even the most pressing factor in any individual case.

So the IIASA finding is a cautious one, backed, the scientists say, by statistical rigour. This identifies climate change, and migration flow, and finds conflict as the causal mediator which links the two, most obviously in the events in the Middle East and North Africa since 2006.

“Our results suggest that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, play a statistically significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum-seeking exclusively for countries that were affected by the Arab Spring,” they write. − Climate News Network

Warming drives climate refugees to Europe

Immigration, already a highly controversial topic in Europe, is set to grow as many more climate refugees head for the continent.

LONDON, 22 December, 2017 – The numbers of climate refugees seeking asylum in Europe by the end of the century will be almost three times greater than today unless the world makes radical cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers say migrants applying for asylum in the European Union will by 2100 nearly triple over the average of the last 15 years if carbon emissions continue at their current rate.

They say cutting emissions could slow this human tide, but even then Europe would see asylum seekers rising by at least a quarter.

“Europe is already conflicted about how many refugees to admit,” said the study’s senior author, Wolfram Schlenker, an economist at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a professor at the university’s Earth Institute.

“Though poorer countries in hotter regions are most vulnerable to climate change, our findings highlight the extent to which countries are interlinked, and Europe will see increasing numbers of desperate people fleeing their home countries.”

“There are tremendous costs, both for refugees and their hosts, when we are caught flat-footed. We should plan ahead and prepare”

He and the study’s co-author, Anouch Missirian, compared asylum applications to the EU from 103 countries between 2000 and 2014, with temperature variations in the applicants’ home countries.

They found that the more temperatures over each country’s agricultural region deviated from 20°C (68°F) during its growing season, the more likely people were to seek refuge abroad.

The study, published in the journal Science, says crops grow best at an average temperature of 20°C, and so, not surprisingly, hotter than normal temperatures increased asylum applications in hotter places, such as Iraq and Pakistan, and lowered them in colder places such as Serbia and Peru.

Combining the asylum-application data with projections of future warming, the researchers found that an increase of average global temperatures of 1.8°C – a scenario in which carbon emissions flatten globally in the next few decades and then decline, which they call optimistic – would increase asylum applications by 28% by 2100 – 98,000 extra applications to the EU each year.

Large rise possible

But if carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, with global temperatures rising by 2.6°C to 4.8°C by 2100, applications could increase by 188%, leading to an extra 660,000 applications each year.

Under the climate deal struck in 2015, the Paris Agreement, most of the world’s nations agreed to cut carbon emissions by 2100 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the US, the world’s second largest carbon emitter, from the accord now jeopardises that goal, which some analysts had already said is unlikely to be reached.

In a further setback to hopes of reducing Americans’ carbon emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed lowering the government’s “social cost” of carbon, or the estimated cost of sea-level rise, lower crop yields, and other climate change-related economic damage, from $42 per ton by 2020 to a low of $1 per ton.

Part of the EPA’s argument for the lower figure involves excluding the cost of US emissions to other countries. But the researchers say their study shows how effects in developing countries have clear impacts on developed countries.

Weather effects

Their work adds to a growing body of evidence that weather shocks can destabilise societies, stoke conflict and force people to flee their home countries. Researchers have highlighted the connection between the drying of the Middle East and continuing conflict there, though debate continues over just what part climate change has played.

Solomon Hsiang, professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research, called the SIPA study an “incredibly important” wake-up call. “We will need to build new institutions and systems to manage this steady flow of asylum seekers,” he said.

“As we have seen from recent experience in Europe, there are tremendous costs, both for refugees and their hosts, when we are caught flat-footed. We should plan ahead and prepare.” – Climate News Network

Immigration, already a highly controversial topic in Europe, is set to grow as many more climate refugees head for the continent.

LONDON, 22 December, 2017 – The numbers of climate refugees seeking asylum in Europe by the end of the century will be almost three times greater than today unless the world makes radical cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers say migrants applying for asylum in the European Union will by 2100 nearly triple over the average of the last 15 years if carbon emissions continue at their current rate.

They say cutting emissions could slow this human tide, but even then Europe would see asylum seekers rising by at least a quarter.

“Europe is already conflicted about how many refugees to admit,” said the study’s senior author, Wolfram Schlenker, an economist at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a professor at the university’s Earth Institute.

“Though poorer countries in hotter regions are most vulnerable to climate change, our findings highlight the extent to which countries are interlinked, and Europe will see increasing numbers of desperate people fleeing their home countries.”

“There are tremendous costs, both for refugees and their hosts, when we are caught flat-footed. We should plan ahead and prepare”

He and the study’s co-author, Anouch Missirian, compared asylum applications to the EU from 103 countries between 2000 and 2014, with temperature variations in the applicants’ home countries.

They found that the more temperatures over each country’s agricultural region deviated from 20°C (68°F) during its growing season, the more likely people were to seek refuge abroad.

The study, published in the journal Science, says crops grow best at an average temperature of 20°C, and so, not surprisingly, hotter than normal temperatures increased asylum applications in hotter places, such as Iraq and Pakistan, and lowered them in colder places such as Serbia and Peru.

Combining the asylum-application data with projections of future warming, the researchers found that an increase of average global temperatures of 1.8°C – a scenario in which carbon emissions flatten globally in the next few decades and then decline, which they call optimistic – would increase asylum applications by 28% by 2100 – 98,000 extra applications to the EU each year.

Large rise possible

But if carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, with global temperatures rising by 2.6°C to 4.8°C by 2100, applications could increase by 188%, leading to an extra 660,000 applications each year.

Under the climate deal struck in 2015, the Paris Agreement, most of the world’s nations agreed to cut carbon emissions by 2100 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the US, the world’s second largest carbon emitter, from the accord now jeopardises that goal, which some analysts had already said is unlikely to be reached.

In a further setback to hopes of reducing Americans’ carbon emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed lowering the government’s “social cost” of carbon, or the estimated cost of sea-level rise, lower crop yields, and other climate change-related economic damage, from $42 per ton by 2020 to a low of $1 per ton.

Part of the EPA’s argument for the lower figure involves excluding the cost of US emissions to other countries. But the researchers say their study shows how effects in developing countries have clear impacts on developed countries.

Weather effects

Their work adds to a growing body of evidence that weather shocks can destabilise societies, stoke conflict and force people to flee their home countries. Researchers have highlighted the connection between the drying of the Middle East and continuing conflict there, though debate continues over just what part climate change has played.

Solomon Hsiang, professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research, called the SIPA study an “incredibly important” wake-up call. “We will need to build new institutions and systems to manage this steady flow of asylum seekers,” he said.

“As we have seen from recent experience in Europe, there are tremendous costs, both for refugees and their hosts, when we are caught flat-footed. We should plan ahead and prepare.” – Climate News Network