Version classiqueVersion mobile

Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis

Steffen Böhm
Sian Sullivan

II. What counts?

6. Climate migration is about people, not numbers

David Durand-Delacre, Giovanni Bettini, S.L. Nash, Harald Sterly, Giovanna Gioli, Elodie Hut, Ingrid Boas, Carol Farbotko, Patrick Sakdapolrak, Mirjam de Bruijn, B.T Tripathy Furlong, Kees Van Der Geest, Samuel Lietaer et Mike Hulme


It has become increasingly common to argue that climate change will lead to mass migrations. In this chapter, we examine the large numbers often invoked to underline alarming climate migration narratives. We outline the methodological limitations to their production. We argue for a greater diversity of knowledges about climate migration, rooted in qualitative and mixed methods. We also question the usefulness of numbers to progressive agendas for climate action. Large numbers are used for rhetorical effect to create fear of climate migration, but this approach backfires when they are used to justify security-oriented, anti-migrant agendas. In addition, quantification helps present migration as a management problem with decisions based on meeting quantitative targets, instead of prioritising peoples’ needs, rights, and freedoms.

Texte intégral


1Perhaps counterintuitively—in a volume calling for actions to tackle the climate crisis—this contribution cautions against the casual use of one of the primary narratives through which the climate crisis is signified and urgent action invoked. That is, the dramatic estimates and projections of a looming migration crisis caused by climate change. We problematise the numbers through which the spectre of such a crisis is supported and communicated. Our critique of these numbers takes place on several levels. We begin by pointing to the many methodological challenges in producing robust numbers. Estimates remain imprecise and highly uncertain, despite some significant developments in methods and datasets. We also diagnose more fundamental epistemological issues about the kinds of knowledges required to understand the climate-migration nexus. Numbers and quantitative estimates fail to capture crucial dimensions of human mobility. Migrants’ decisions to move can be forced but also voluntary, are highly subjective, and need to be understood as situated, political, and non-deterministic.

2Ultimately, however, our concern has less to do with what numbers can or cannot tell us about climate migration than with the ways in which numbers are (mis) used. On the one hand, a focus on mass migration numbers is intended to construct climate migration as a crisis. However, framing this crisis as a humanitarian issue has done little to protect migrants and more to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant populism, providing arguments for more stringent border controls and increasingly restrictive migration policies across the Global North. At the same time, the promise of quantification creates the impression that this crisis can be clearly defined, and managed, as long as better numbers are made available (also see Hannis, this volume). Attempts to use numbers to address issues of climate justice and responsibility are undercut by the focus on quantification itself, which tends to limit debates to technical questions about how many will move and how this movement can be organised.

3This critique of headline estimates should not be misinterpreted as a denial of the impacts that climate change is having and will continue to have on peoples’ mobilities. Climate change impacts related to sea-level rise, drought, increased frequency of wildfires and storms—and the associated declines in livelihoods—pose serious and differentiated challenges with which we must contend (as also highlighted by Lendelvo et al., this volume). Rather, our aim is to point to how a focus on numbers reduces political imaginaries of our response to climate migration to a narrow range of possibilities. We argue that a different approach is needed.

A Brief Overview of Climate Migration Numbers and their Methodological Limitations

4The environmentalist Norman Myers (1934–2019) initiated efforts to estimate the impact of climate change on migration when he predicted in the early 1990s that there would be 150 million “environmental refugees” by 2050 (Myers 1993). He later updated his estimate to 200 million by 2050 (Myers and Kent 1995; Myers 1997, 2002). The latter figure remains one of the most widely cited climate migration numbers to date. Myers’ estimations were based on linear extrapolations of demographic and displacement figures in what he considered “environmental hotspots”. These methods were rapidly challenged as too simplistic, notably because they assumed a linear relationship between environmental impacts (such as sea-level rise or desertification) and out-migration from affected areas. They were also not based on any actual inquiry into the causal mechanisms involved and ignored potential in-situ adaptation strategies. Myers’ approach relied on aggregate global forecasts, rather than specific case studies that could bring empirical grounding to these assumptions (Black 1994, 2001; Suhrke 1994; Castles 2002). Myers’ numbers have been reproduced in many prominent reports since their publication (as critiqued by Saunders 2000). More recently, numbers larger than a billion people have also been disseminated in academic articles, NGO or think tank reports, and the press (see Table 1). Myers himself later admitted that coming up with the final estimates required “heroic extrapolations” (Brown 2008).

5Despite this situation, many subsequent reports—mostly published by NGOs and (inter) governmental organisations—either reproduced Myers’ numbers or provided other estimates based on analogous methods (see methodological notes in Table 1). These numbers are rounded to the nearest ten or hundred million, an indication of the crude methods employed to derive them. Most problematic is the prevalence of simple additions of annual figures and an extrapolation of such trends into the future, which can produce nothing other than a continuously rising graph (for a recent example, see Institute for Economics and Peace 2020).

Table 1. Coml y i td clm e i o m bes . Ti bli s fa fo xa s ve bt p o f the p n a coml y i td xampls . So s: At hos r w (draw n Bo wn 2008; Ge n 24 011; Io co 2016; L e z 2019).

Table 1. Coml y i td clm e i o m bes . Ti bli s fa fo xa s ve bt p o f the p n a coml y i td xampls . So s: At hos r w (draw n Bo wn 2008; Ge n 24 011; Io co 2016; L e z 2019).

6Recognising the deep flaws in the methods employed to derive these numbers, quantitative social scientists and modellers have sought to develop more sophisticated datasets and methods to improve the credibility of numerical estimates. In doing this, they contend with the unavailability of data, particularly at small scales or in disaggregated form, its poor quality, and its limited comparability (Brown 2008; Tejero et al. 2020). On the condition that the necessary data could be gathered, reviewers of the field have repeatedly emphasised the need for more longitudinal studies, a multi-scalar research, analysis disaggregated along gender, age, ethnic, caste, and class lines, and consideration of a wider range of environmental drivers beyond precipitation changes or sea-level rise (Brown 2008; Piguet 2010; Obokata et al. 2014; Vinke and Hoffmann 2020).

7As a result of these responses, some refinements to datasets and methods have been made. Most researchers also now present overall climate migration numbers with much greater care than was the case for earlier estimates. They largely acknowledge limitations and warn readers not to overinterpret results by pointing to numerical ranges and associated uncertainties. Nonetheless, reviews and meta-analyses of quantitative studies still conclude that many analytical problems persist. They find that models allow few confident causal claims about the environment’s influence on migration except “in broad terms and at fairly large spatial scales” (Obokata et al. 2014: 127); and that results remain heavily influenced by the methods used. Ultimately, they find it remains exceedingly difficult for modellers to defend any single factor as the primary driver of migration (Piguet et al. 2011; McLeman 2013; Obokata et al. 2014; Beine and Jeusette 2018; Cattaneo et al. 2019). In other words, it remains extremely difficult to definitely link migration to climate change.

A Greater Diversity of Knowledges of Climate Migration Is Needed

8In addition to these methodological shortcomings, a focus on climate migration numbers obscures the need for other forms of knowledge about the climate-migration nexus. Producing these knowledges requires more use of mixed and qualitative methods. These are better suited than quantification alone to study the multi-causal, highly situated, and subjective dimensions of climate migration. Attempts to isolate migration drivers related to climate change, and to identify and count ‘climate migrants’, are at odds with most social scientists’ understanding of migration. From a social science perspective, human mobility is well-accepted to be a multi-causal and complex phenomenon. This implies that migration drivers—be they social, political, economic, environmental, or demographic—interact with and mutually influence each other (Black et al. 2011).

9Our trouble with numbers is also motivated by fundamental questions on how migration itself should be understood. Attempting to reduce migration to a number is akin to the “migration map trap” whereby individual experiences of migration become “faceless pixel [s] in a big threatening arrow” (Van Houtum and Bueno Lacy 2020: 210). This approach not only overlooks the situated complexities already highlighted, but also obliterates the important subjective dimensions of migration.

10To be clear, accounting for those subjective dimensions is not merely about looking at the faces behind the numbers. The problem with this methodological ‘reversal’ would be to individualise processes that are in fact emergent and collective, thereby interpreting peoples’ experiences and extrapolating singular stories as representative of millions. Rather, we suggest that it is important to fully acknowledge that mobility itself is a cultural construct, and that distinct ontologies and epistemologies of mobility are embodied in and inform migrants’ choices and experiences (also see Sullivan Chapter 3, and Dieckmann’s chapter, this volume on the relevance of ontological concerns for situating choices and understanding). This subjective dimension of migration stresses its non-deterministic character and, in line with a general shift in migration studies, calls into question the dominant focus on ‘root causes’ and migration ‘management’. Viewing migration and mobilities as autonomous (which is not a synonym for voluntary or individual) practices suggests that they must be investigated well beyond institutional constraints and categories (De Genova and Peutz 2010; Mezzadra and Neilson 2013; Scheel 2013).

11In practical terms, we are calling for approaches that engage with the subjective diversity of migrant mobilities and situate people involved and their perspectives more prominently in the research process (Casas– Cortes et al. 2015). This orientation requires deep qualitative work— usually based on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork—and a general move away from an emphasis on legal and governmental frameworks and the economic determinism of the labour market.

A Climate Mobilities Approach to Diverse and Situated Mobilities

12A climate mobilities approach is a promising way to understand the mechanisms behind the decision to migrate (or to stay) (Boas et al. 2019). This approach, based largely on qualitative research, does not aim to cut through causality and isolate ‘the environment’ from other ‘contextual’ factors, or to identify the dominant factor in migration decisions. Instead, it considers causation as always multi-faceted, situated, and nonlinear. The changing climate remains a relevant factor, but climate only exerts its influence on the world through the matrix of social, economic, environmental, cultural, historical, and political processes that comprise the social world (Hulme 2011). In this way, the climate is not privileged as an influence on mobilities but is also recognised as a pluralistic phenomenon worthy of multi-pronged empirical investigations.

13These investigations need to be pursued using a rich vocabulary capturing the many nuances and forms that (im) mobilities take. Indeed, social science research has shown that climate mobilities can be short-term or long-term, but also circular or seasonal (Zickgraf 2018). What may start as a short-distance, temporary move can turn into a long-distance, permanent one (Van der Geest 2010). Some people choose to remain in their homes in full cognisance of the risks involved (McNamara and Gibson 2009; Adams 2016; Ayeb-Karlsson et al. 2016; Farbotko 2018), while others are trapped and experience involuntary immobility (Black et al. 2013), or embark on long-distance movements because everyday short-distance mobilities to markets or healthcare are disrupted (Blondin 2020). In addition, it is crucial to understand the situated dynamics and local contexts in which migration (or immobility) occurs. Socio-cultural, political, and environmental dynamics change from place to place, and can differ significantly even within a single community.

14To better understand the complexity of migratory movements, we can also turn for example to “trajectory ethnographies” (Schapendonk and Steel 2014; Schapendonk et al. 2018), “geographies in and of movement” (Brachet 2012), or life history approaches (Singh et al. 2019). These in-depth approaches study how mobility unfolds, what shapes it, and how mobility decisions are made. The first two involve interviews in multiple locations, at different moments and stages relevant to a journey, while the latter explores personal narratives of mobility. Such methods provide a detailed picture of the circuitous routes people take; of the obstacles, meetings, and separations that punctuate them; and of peoples’ perceptions, aspirations, and memories.

15Of course, such methods also have their limitations. Questions can be raised about the power dynamics between researchers and research participants, and the latter’s degree of representation (Cabot 2016; Khosravi 2018; Boas et al. 2020). Can we—as often privileged academics—really put ourselves in the shoes of affected individuals? Trajectory approaches allow researchers (to some degree) “to practice mobility and to reveal mobility-immobility relations that otherwise would remain hidden”, but it is important to stay reflexive (Boas et al. 2020: 144).

  • 1  The aim of Q methodology is to identify the shared views of study participants on a given issue. P (...)

16This is not to say that better numbers cannot be produced in the course of estimating climate change and migration interconnections. Besides improving quantitative methods and data, however, we argue that progress will only be achieved through greater collaboration with qualitative social sciences of the kind just described. We see as promising the mixing of methods in work that ‘grounds’ big data with site-based fieldwork, so as to challenge assumptions made from afar and detect important dynamics that big-data research would otherwise miss (Boas et al. 2019). Collaborative work integrating behavioural migration theories and concepts of “place attachment” into agent-based models is also helping to increase the sensitivity of model results to variations in individual and community-level responses to environmental hazards (Adams and Kay 2019). Lastly, the recent uptake in mobilities research of tools such as Q methodology1 also reveals a range of shared subjective understandings, attitudes and perceptions of climate change and human mobility (Van der Geest et al. 2019; Oakes 2019).

The Misuses of Climate Migration Numbers

17If we insist on epistemological and methodological diversity beyond quantification alone, it is because social science studies on numbers— not just of climate migration but in other spheres too—have repeatedly shown their potential for misuse (Porter 1995). The point is not to do away with numbers, but to exercise caution at all stages of their production, communication, and use. Below we detail two specific areas of concern.

Climate Mobility Is Not a Crisis

18Our first concern with headline numbers is how they are used to construct climate migration as a crisis. The intention behind such rhetoric may be laudable: to stimulate action on climate change and to assist its victims. But there are many problems with using fear of mass displacement as a rallying cry. There is absolutely no guarantee that crisis narratives underpinned by large numbers are an effective way to achieve these aims.

19On the contrary, press releases and the news media tend to highlight a single number, usually drawn from the upper range of estimates presented in the original source. In some cases, the numbers lose all specificity, with headlines pointing only to ‘millions’ or even ‘billions’ of people on the move (also see discussion of the constructed and historical dimensions of ‘environmental refugees’ in Saunders 2000). Sometimes, they do not even refer to a specific source. In such a discursive context, the specifics of the number and the underlying methodology matter little, as long as it is high. Numbers are used to rhetorical effect.

20The dystopian futures thus created are often associated with a tendency to discuss migratory flows in hydrological metaphors, such as in assertions of ‘waves’, ‘floods’ or ‘rising tides’ of migrants. Such invocations connect with a wider racist motif that contributes to an alarming imaginary wherein the ‘Global North’ will be overwhelmed by migrants from ‘Global South’ contexts (Bettini 2013; Methmann 2014; Pallister-Wilkins 2019). Worse still, the ‘hotspots’ approach on which these narratives are based tends to erase colonial histories and naturalise structural violence, neutralising local contexts and conditions. By reducing large parts of the Global South to a “hotspot”, this perpetuates a dangerous othering exercise, denigrating large parts of the world as merely disaster-ridden, dangerous, overpopulated places from which people can only aspire to flee (Giuliani 2017). This narrative actively reproduces the figure of the climate migrant as a security threat, and ultimately, as a highly racialised entity (Baldwin 2013).

21Researchers who seek to publicise their work on the climate-migration nexus must grasp these racist and simplifying dangers, as too should policymakers, practitioners, and journalists who promote these narratives. We argue that the stories of affected people ought to be central in such reporting, even if—perhaps especially if—their stories run counter to our intuitions and estimated numbers. It is people who matter, not numbers.

Climate Mobility Is Not a Management Problem

22The promise of better numbers also reinforces the impression that the climate migration crisis can be managed because it can be quantified. Numbers hold a privileged place in contemporary political discourses and policymaking, as they are associated with rigour and objectivity in the public and scientific imagination (Porter 1995; Espeland and Stevens 2008; Hansen and Porter 2012). Migration policy has not escaped this trend. To a large extent migration expertise is understood to be associated with researchers’ ability to quantify their findings, so they can be used in managerial practices that place statistical methods at the centre of decision-making (Takle 2017). While numbers have their place in policymaking, we argue that the qualitative methods and subjective perspectives highlighted above should be centred in policymaking on climate mobilities. This will only be possible if the rhetorical power of numbers is acknowledged and challenged.

23Adopting a managerial approach to climate migration, guided by flawed numbers, risks disregarding many of the dangers associated with climate migration numbers discussed above. This practice can be understood in terms of “strategic ignorance”. While policymakers are widely aware of migration data quality issues, and associated uncertainties, they still maintain a picture of migration as an “easily measurable, intelligible reality” that can therefore be managed by numbers (Scheel and Ustek-Spilda 2019). In this way, they avoid the difficult political questions—notably around responsibility—that a more head-on engagement with migration’s complex realities would require (Betts and Pilath 2017; Kelman 2019).

24In a political context where critical migration scholars struggle to make themselves heard, this situation is particularly concerning. Mobilities scholars often find that while many policymakers are willing to engage in discussion, these exchanges do not have any meaningful bearing on policy design (Baldwin-Edwards et al. 2019; Héran 2020). Researchers have even expressed concerns that findings of the migration research funded by the EU are disregarded by the EU’s own policy processes (Kalir and Cantat 2020). In this light, the constant drive under migration management processes for “more and better data” can have the counterproductive effect of ignoring already well-established knowledge in migration research—whether quantitative or based on other methods.


25Estimates of climate migration numbers present a facade of objective, authoritative and unemotional facts. But these numbers are highly contentious. Such estimates need to be recognised as being grounded in normative, epistemological and methodological assumptions which are often hidden and rarely challenged. At the very least, migration scholars should expose these assumptions so that audiences better understand how migration numbers are constructed (for a recent example, see McMichael et al. 2020). In many cases, the estimates of people moving in the context of climate change are methodologically questionable or else nebulous.

26Migration numbers need to be understood against this background. But they also do not stand alone. They are attached to various narratives and are presented in multiple ways. Even rigorous, cautiously communicated estimates can become decoupled from the complexities of human mobilities. The significance of a discourse is not simply about how it is constructed, and by whom, but also lies in how the discourse is received, and how the narratives which package migration numbers are filtered and interpreted. Complexities that may initially be presented alongside the numerical estimates become erased. Numbers alone become the headline, thus distracting from important political questions about humanity, justice, and responsibility.

27A common narrative with which climate migration estimates are coupled (either by their authors or during their reproduction and dissemination) is one that conceptualises human mobility in the context of climate change as a crisis. The large numbers of people imagined to be on the move are employed to signify the looming crisis and used to invoke urgent action. There comes a point where these numbers are instrumentalised by political movements whose values— expressed in xenophobic narratives and anti-immigrant agendas—are at odds with those who champion these numbers to call for bolder climate action.

28The relationship between climate change and human mobility should not be seen as a security problem, as a managerial issue, or as a number to be controlled. The policy focus should be on people—their vulnerabilities, rights and freedoms—so as to help prise open political spaces for policy interventions beyond building walls, real or rhetorical, designed to control rather than to care.



Adams, H., ‘Why Populations Persist: Mobility, Place Attachment and Climate Change’, Population and Environment, 37 (4) (2016), 429–48,

Adams, Helen, and Susan Kay, ‘Migration as a Human Affair: Integrating Individual Stress Thresholds into Quantitative Models of Climate Migration’, Environmental Science & Policy, 93 (2019), 129–38,

Ayeb-Karlsson, Sonja, Kees Van der Geest, Istiakh Ahmed, Saleemul Huq, and Koko Warner, ‘A People–Centred Perspective on Climate Change, Environmental Stress, and Livelihood Resilience in Bangladesh’, Sustainability Science, 11 (4) (2016), 679–94,

Baldwin, Andrew, ‘Racialisation and the Figure of the Climate-Change Migrant’, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 45 (6) (2013), 1474–90,

Baldwin-Edwards, Martin, Brad K. Blitz, and Heaven Crawley, ‘The Politics of Evidence-Based Policy in Europe’s “Migration Crisis”’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 45 (12) (2019), 2139–55, 83X.2018.1468307.

Beine, Michel, and Lionel Jeusette, A Meta-Analysis of the Literature on Climate Change and Migration, CREA Discussion Paper Series (, 2018),

Bettini, Giovanni, ‘Climate Barbarians at the Gate? A Critique of Apocalyptic Narratives on “Climate Refugees”’, Geoforum, Risky natures, natures of risk, 45 (2013), 63–72,

Betts, Alexander, and Angela Pilath, ‘The Politics of Causal Claims: The Case of Environmental Migration’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 20 (4) (2017), 782–804,

Biermann, Frank, and Ingrid Boas, ‘Preparing for a Warmer World: Towards a Global Governance System to Protect Climate Refugees’, Global Environmental Politics, 10 (1) (2010), 60–88,

Black, Richard, ‘Forced Migration and Environmental Change: The Impact of Refugees on Host Environments’, Journal of Environmental Management, 42 (3) (1994), 261–77,

Black, Richard, ‘Environmental Refugees: Myth or Reality?’, New Issues in Refugee Research (UNHCR Research Paper), 34 (, 2001),

Black, Richard, Nigel W. Arnell, Neil Adger, David Thomas, and Andrew Geddes, ‘Migration, Immobility and Displacement Outcomes Following Extreme Events’, Environmental Science and Policy, 27 (Supplement 1) (2013), 32–43,

Black, Richard, Dominic Kniveton, and Kerstin Schmidt-Verkerk, ‘Migration and Climate Change: Towards an Integrated Assessment of Sensitivity’, Environment and Planning A, 43 (2) (2011), 431–50,

Blondin, Suzy, ‘Understanding Involuntary Immobility in the Bartang Valley of Tajikistan through the Prism of Motility’, Mobilities, 15 (4) (2020), 543–58,

Boas, Ingrid, Ruben Dahm, and David Wrathall, ‘Grounding Big Data on Climate-Induced Human Mobility’, Geographical Review, 110 (1–2) (2019), 195–209,

Boas, Ingrid, Carol Farbotko, Helen Adams, Harald Sterly, Simon Bush, Kees Van der Geest, and others, ‘Climate Migration Myths’, Nature Climate Change, 9 (12) (2019), 901–03,

Boas, Ingrid, Joris Schapendonk, Suzy Blondin, and A. Pas, ‘Methods as Moving Ground: Reflections on the “Doings” of Mobile Methodologies’, Social Inclusion, 8 (4) (2020), 136–46,

Brachet, Julien, ‘Géographie du mouvement, géographie en mouvement. La mobilité comme dimension du terrain dans l’étude des migrations’, Annales de géographie, 687–88 (5–6) (2012), 543–60,

Brown, Oli, Climate Change and Forced Migration: Observations, Projections and Implications (, 2008),

Cabot, Heath, ‘“Refugee Voices”: Tragedy, Ghosts, and the Anthropology of Not Knowing’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 45 (6) (2016), 645–72,

CARE Danmark, Fleeing Climate Change: Impacts on Migration and Displacement (, 2016),

Casas–Cortes, Maribel, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles, ‘Riding Routes and Itinerant Borders: Autonomy of Migration and Border Externalization’, Antipode, 47 (4) (2015), 894–914,

Castles, Stephen, ‘Environmental Change and Forced Migration: Making Sense of the Debate’, New Issues in Refugee Research (UNHCR Research Paper), 70 (2002),

Cattaneo, Cristina, Michel Beine, Christiane J. Fröhlich, Dominic Kniveton, Inmaculada Martinez-Zarzoso, Marina Mastrorillo, et al., ‘Human Migration in the Era of Climate Change’, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 13 (2) (2019), 189–206,

Christian Aid, Human Tide: The Real Migration Crisis ( uk, 2007),

De Genova, Nicholas, and Nathalie Peutz (eds), The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).

De Haas, Hein, ‘Climate Refugees: The Fabrication of a Migration Threat’ (, 2020),

Environmental Justice Foundation, Beyond Borders: Our Changing ClimateIts Role in Conflict and Displacement (London: Environmental Justice Foundation, 2017),

Espeland, Wendy Nelson, and Mitchell L. Stevens, ‘ASociology of Quantification’, European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie, 49 (3) (2008), 401–36,

Farbotko, Carol, ‘Voluntary Immobility: Indigenous Voices in the Pacific’, Forced Migration Review, 57, 2018, 81–83.

Friends of the Earth, ‘A Citizen’s Guide to Climate Refugees’ (Friends of the Earth, 2007),

Geisler, Charles, and Ben Currens, ‘Impediments to Inland Resettlement under Conditions of Accelerated Sea Level Rise’, Land Use Policy, 66 (Supplement C) (2017), 322–30,

Gemenne, François, ‘Why the Numbers Don’t Add Up: A Review of Estimates and Predictions of People Displaced by Environmental Changes’, Global Environmental Change, Migration and Global Environmental Change— Review of Drivers of Migration, 21 (2011), 41–49,

Giuliani, Gaia, ‘Afterword’, in Life Adrift: Climate Change, Migration, Critique, Andrew Baldwin and Giovanni Bettini (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017), pp. 227–41.

Hansen, Hans Krause, and Tony Porter, ‘What Do Numbers Do in Transnational Governance?’, International Political Sociology, 6 (4) (2012), 409–26,

Héran, François, ‘La Recherche Produit des Données de Qualité sur les Migrations et les Migrants: Utilisons-les pour un Débat Réellement Informé!’ (, 2020),

Hulme, Mike, ‘Reducing the Future to Climate: A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism’, Osiris, 26 (1) (2011), 245–66,

Institute for Economics and Peace, Ecological Threat Register 2020: Understanding Ecological Threats, Resilience and Peace (Sydney: Institute for Economics and Peace, 2020),

Ionesco, Dina, Daria Mokhnacheva, and François Gemenne, Atlas des migrations environnementales (Paris: Presses de la fondation nationale des sciences politiques, 2016),

Jacobson, Jodi L., ‘Environmental Refugees: A Yardstick of Habitability’, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 8 (1988), 257–58,

Kalir, Barak, and Céline Cantat, ‘Fund but Disregard: The EU’s Relationship to Academic Research on Mobility’ (, 2020),

Kelman, Ilan, ‘Imaginary Numbers of Climate Change Migrants?’, Social Sciences, 8 (5) (2019), 131,

Khosravi, Shahram, ‘Afterword. Experiences and Stories along the Way’, Geoforum, 116 (2018), 292–95,

Luetz, Johannes M., ‘Climate Refugees: Why Measuring the Immeasurable Makes Sense Beyond Measure’, in Climate Action, ed. by Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, and Tony Wall (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2019), pp. 1–14,

McLeman, Robert, ‘Developments in Modelling of Climate Change-Related Migration’, Climatic Change, 117 (3) (2013), 599–611,

McMichael, Celia, Shouro Dasgupta, Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, and Ilan Kelman, ‘A Review of Estimating Population Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and the Relevance for Migration’, Environmental Research Letters, 15 (120) (2020), 123005,

McNamara, Karen Elizabeth, and Chris Gibson, ‘“We Do Not Want to Leave Our Land”: Pacific Ambassadors at the United Nations Resist the Category of “Climate Refugees”’, Geoforum, Gramscian Political Ecologies Themed Issue: Understanding Networks at the Science-Policy Interface, 40 (3) (2009), 475–83,

Methmann, Chris, ‘Visualizing Climate-Refugees: Race, Vulnerability, and Resilience in Global Liberal Politics’, International Political Sociology, 8 (4) (2014), 416–35,

Mezzadra, Sandro, and Brett Neilson, Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).

Myers, Norman, ‘Environmental Refugees in a Globally Warmed World’, BioScience, 43 (11) (1993), 752–61,

Myers, Norman, ‘Environmental Refugees’, Population and Environment, 19 (2) (1997), 167–82,

Myers, Norman, ‘Environmental Refugees: A Growing Phenomenon of the 21st Century’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 357 (1420) (2002), 609–13,

Myers, Norman, and Jennifer Kent, Environmental Exodus: An Emergent Crisis in the Global Arena (Washington, DC: The Climate Institute, 1995).

Neumann, Barbara, Athanasios T. Vafeidis, Juliane Zimmermann, and Robert J. Nicholls, ‘Future Coastal Population Growth and Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding—A Global Assessment’, PLoS ONE, 10 (3) (2015), e0131375,

Oakes, Robert, ‘Culture, Climate Change and Mobility Decisions in Pacific Small Island Developing States’, Population and Environment, 40 (4) (2019), 480–503,

Obokata, Reiko, Luisa Veronis, and Robert McLeman, ‘Empirical Research on International Environmental Migration: A Systematic Review’, Population and Environment, 36 (1) (2014), 111–35,

Pallister-Wilkins, Polly, ‘Walking, Not Flowing: The Migrant Caravan And The Geoinfrastructuring Of Unequal Mobility’ (, 2019),

Pearce, Fred, ‘Climate Refugees Exist but We Don’t Know How Many There Are’, New Scientist, 210 (2810) (2011), 6–7,

Piguet, Etienne, ‘Linking Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Migration: A Methodological Overview’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1 (4) (2010), 517–24,

Piguet, Etienne, Pécoud, and Paul de Guchteneire, ‘Migration and Climate Change: An Overview’, Refugee Survey Quarterly, 30 (3) (2011), 1–23,

Porter, Theodore M., Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995).

Rigaud, Kanta Kumari, Alex de Sherbinin, Bryan Jones, Jonas Bergmann, Viviane Clement, Kayly Ober, et al., Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration (World Bank, 2018),

Saunders, Patricia, L., ‘Environmental Refugees: Origins of a Construct’, in Political Ecology: Science, Myth, and Power, ed. by P. Stott and Sian Sullivan (London: Edward Arnold, 2000), pp. 218–46.

Schapendonk, Joris, Ilse van Liempt, Inga Schwarz, and Griet Steel, ‘Re-Routing Migration Geographies: Migrants, Trajectories and Mobility Regimes’, Geoforum, 116 (2018), 211–16,

Schapendonk, Joris, and Griet Steel, ‘Following Migrant Trajectories: The Im/ Mobility of Sub-Saharan Africans En Route to the European Union’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104 (2) (2014), 262–70,

Scheel, Stephan, ‘Studying Embodied Encounters: Autonomy of Migration beyond Its Romanticization’, Postcolonial Studies, 16 (3) (2013), 279–88,

Scheel, Stephan, and Funda Ustek-Spilda, ‘The Politics of Expertise and Ignorance in the Field of Migration Management’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 37 (4) (2019), 663–81,

Singh, Chandni, Mark Tebboth, Dian Spear, Prince Ansah, and Adelina Mensah, ‘Exploring Methodological Approaches to Assess Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation: Reflections from Using Life History Approaches’, Regional Environmental Change, 19 (8) (2019), 2667–82,

Stern, N. H. (ed.), The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Suhrke, Astri, ‘Environmental Degradation and Population Flows’, Journal of International Affairs, 47 (2) (1994), 473–96.

Takle, Marianne, ‘Migration and Asylum Statistics as a Basis for European Border Control’, Migration Studies, 5 (2) (2017), 267–85,

Tejero, Debora Gonzalez, Lorenzo Guadagno, and Alessandro Nicoletti, ‘Human Mobility and the Environment: Challenges for Data Collection and Policymaking’, Migration Policy Practice, X (1) (2020), 30, 3–10.

Van der Geest, Kees, ‘Local Perceptions Of Migration From North-West Ghana’, Africa, 80 (4) (2010), 595–619,

Van der Geest, Kees, Maxine Burkett, Juno Fitzpatrick, Mark Stege, and Brittany Wheeler, Marshallese Perspectives on Migration in the Context of Climate Change (Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2019).

Van Houtum, Henk, and Rodrigo Bueno Lacy, ‘The Migration Map Trap. On the Invasion Arrows in the Cartography of Migration’, Mobilities, 15 (2) (2020), 196–219,

Vinke, Kira, and Roman Hoffmann, ‘Data for a Difficult Subject: Climate Change and Human Migration’, Migration Policy Practice, X.1 (2020), 30, 16–22.

Zickgraf, Caroline, ‘The Fish Migrate and so Must We’: The Relationship between International and Internal Environmental Mobility in a Senegalese Fishing Community’, Journal of International Relations, 16 (1) (2018), 5–21.


1  The aim of Q methodology is to identify the shared views of study participants on a given issue. Participants are asked, as a group, to rank a set of statements on a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. The statements are selected to be representative of known existing opinions on the issue. In addition, participants are asked to explain their decisions, providing qualitative commentary to the quantitative sorting exercise.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1. Coml y i td clm e i o m bes . Ti bli s fa fo xa s ve bt p o f the p n a coml y i td xampls . So s: At hos r w (draw n Bo wn 2008; Ge n 24 011; Io co 2016; L e z 2019).
Fichier image/jpeg, 169k


PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. Combining media analysis and interviews with academic researchers, journalists, NGOs, and policymakers, his thesis investigates the emergence and evolution of debates at the intersection of climate change and migration in France. David previously worked as an analyst for the United Nations Sustainable Development Network. In this role, he collected and analysed indicators for two editions of the network’s flagship Sustainable Development Report (2015 and 2016). From 2015 to 2018, he also volunteered and then became President of Réfugiés Bienvenue, a Paris-based NGO providing housing to homeless asylum seekers.

Senior Lecturer in International Development and Climate Politics at Lancaster University. His research investigates how environmental change—in its planetary but uneven character, and entangled with a series of contemporary ‘crises’ and historical legacies— is generating new spaces, modes of governance, subjectivities and forms of resistance. He has published extensively on the links between climate change and human mobility, and more recently on the role of ‘the digital’ in reshaping adaptation, resilience, and justice.

Political scientist working on climate change politics and policy, especially at the intersection of climate change and human mobilities, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna. She holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship for her project “Climate Diplomacy and Uneven Policy Responses on Climate Change and Human Mobility” (CLIMACY). Her first book, Negotiating Migration in the Context of Climate Change. International Policy and Discourse, was published in 2019 by Bristol University Press. Sarah holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Hamburg.

Senior Researcher at the Population Geography and Demography Working Group at the Department of Geography and Regional Research, University of Vienna, Austria. He works on the nexus of environmental migration with a special focus on the spatial and social aspects of migration, urbanisation, and technological change, and how the latter contribute to changes in vulnerable groups’ scope for agency and their vulnerability and resilience.

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Bath Spa University. She has held research and teaching posts at several international universities, as well as a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh. She has also worked for various development organisations in South Asia, including the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal.

PhD candidate at the Hugo Observatory (University of Liège, Belgium), where she previously worked as a research assistant, conducting research for the MIGRADAPT project (on migration as a potential adaptation strategy to environmental changes). Prior to this, Elodie successively worked at the UNHCR and the IOM in South Africa, for GIZ in Senegal, and in a disaster risk reduction consultancy firm in South Africa. Elodie holds a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Action and Law from the Institute of International Humanitarian Studies of Aix-en-Provence, as well a second Master’s in International Relations from Sciences Po Aix.

Associate Professor at the Environmental Policy Group of Wageningen University. Ingrid conducts research in the fields of environmental change, mobilities, and governance. Her PhD (University of Kent, 2014) examined the securitisation of climate migration, and was funded by the UK Economic Social Research Council. In 2016, she was awarded a personal grant with the Netherlands Scientific Organization to study environmental mobility in the digital age. Ingrid’s work has appeared in Global Environmental Politics, Environmental Politics, Geoforum, the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Nature Climate Change, and in a monograph on climate migration and security with Routledge (2015).

Adjunct Fellow in Geography at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. She is a cultural geographer with research interests in climate mobilities and the politics of climate risk. Much of her work is focused on climate change mobilities in the Pacific Islands.

Professor at the Department of Geography and Regional Research, University of Vienna, Austria, where he leads the Working Group for Population Geography and Demography. He is also a Research Scholar at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. His research field is at the interface of population dynamics, environmental change, and development processes, with a focus on the topics of migration and displacement as well as health and disease, mainly in South- and Southeast Asia and East Africa.

Professor in Contemporary History and Anthropology of Africa at Leiden University and the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL). Her specific fields of interest are mobility, youth, social (in) security, and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a basis in social anthropology. In 2016 she founded the organisation Voice4thought ( and is director of the project Voice4Thought Académie, based in Mali. Mirjam teaches ‘innovative methods and methodology’ in the BA and MA African Studies programmes. Her recent publications are on ICTs and society, radicalisation, and youth.

PhD candidate at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. She is an anthropologist by training and her research interests include climate change, human mobility, gender, resilience, the anthropology-development nexus, and environment. She obtained her MSc in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2012 and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Delhi in Sociology (Hons.). She was a Lecturer at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh and carried out empirical research in India and Bangladesh.

(PhD) is Head of the “Environment and Migration: Interactions and Choices” (EMIC) Section at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). As a human geographer he applies a people-centred perspective to study the impacts of climate change, human mobility, environmental risk, adaptation, livelihood resilience, and rural development. His work has contributed substantially to expanding the empirical evidence base on migration-environment linkages and impacts of climate change beyond adaptation ( “loss and damage”). Kees has extensive fieldwork experience in the Global South, for example in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Marshall Islands and Bolivia.

Environmental social scientist working on the subjective dimensions of human interactions with environmental change, with a focus on marginal regions of low-income countries. He is currently working for the MIGRADAPT research project in Senegal, alongside which he is writing a PhD thesis at the Centre d’Etudes du Développement Durable (CEDD) of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Both the project and his PhD dig further into translocal mechanisms of (political) remittances serving as adaptation strategies to environmental changes in Senegalese home communities. Previously, Samuel obtained his Master’s in both Political Science and Law. He worked as a climate policy officer at 11.11.11, the overarching development NGO in Belgium. He also conducted research for the Belgian Development Cooperation in the field of climate-compatible private-sector development using perception approaches.

Professor of Human Geography at the University of Cambridge. His work illuminates the numerous ways in which the idea of climate change is deployed in public, political, religious, and scientific discourse, exploring both its historical, cultural and scientific origins and its contemporary meanings. He is the author of nine books on climate change, including most recently Climate Change: Key Ideas in Geography (Routledge, 2021), Contemporary Climate Change Debates (Routledge, 2020) and Why We Disagree About Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2009). From 2000 to 2007 Hulme was the Founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

© Open Book Publishers, 2021

Licence OpenEdition Books


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search