Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Migration

As the impacts of climate change intensify, the world’s most (socially, geographically, and economically) vulnerable people are going to be sitting in the crosshairs. How will they adapt and what tools do they have at their disposal for responding to the crisis? While the strategies for adaptation vary depending on the context, one adaptation approach is universal – migration.

The drivers of migration fall into three general categories. The first set include the ‘push factors’ that drive people from the region or country in which they reside. They include a lack of economic opportunities or access to scarce resources as well as instability and/or conflict – in this context, that includes extreme weather events. The second are ‘pull factors’ and include access to those same opportunities/resources that may be absent in the region or country where they currently live. Lastly, ‘intervening factors’ that restrict or facilitate migration – such as established family or social networks in a different area, ease of transportation, and/or mobility of possessions – also contribute to migration patterns.

All of these elements are expressed in one way or another by those directly impacted by catastrophic climate change events. As Eduardo Liga Flores, a  rancher from drought-hit Pasorapa told us:

“Our youth, our children, keep on leaving for the city. We stay here, the older people, or the people with livestock that can’t move to the city to search for other opportunities. Only the tough really have stayed here to fight these weather inclemencies that afflict (us). And the youth need it, to develop themselves; they need to acquire better income to sustain their family and (therefore) have to leave.”

For a deeper understanding of what vulnerability is and what it means for Bolivians, read the extended analysis In the Crosshairs: climate change vulnerability in Bolivia


Find out more

The UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition has a very useful resources section with materials relating to climate change, vulnerablity and migration. This includes a section decidated to stories from Latin America.