The Impact of Environmental Disasters on the Migration of Political Refugees Restricted; Files & ToC

Ono, Aspen (Spring 2018)

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Analyzing the relationship between environmental disasters and population migration has been an area of increasing academic interest over the past few decades. The legal recognition of those displaced by environmental disasters and slow onset events is increasingly important with the progression of climate change. There is currently no comprehensive legal status designated to environmentally displaced persons. Population migration is usually influenced by multiple factors including social, political, economic, demographic and environmental drivers. Therefore, designating migrants or refugees into categories defined by singular causal mechanisms overlooks the true complexity of a population’s decision to migrate. Using an OLS regression with robust standard errors, this paper analyzes the role that climate related environmental disasters play in the migration of United Nations recognized political refugees across international borders from 1960 to 2016, accounting for a range of control variables. This analysis finds a positive and significant relationship between the country-level number of individuals affected by climate related environmental disasters and the country-level annual differentiated number of outgoing refugees. These findings challenge existing legal migration classifications by demonstrating the multi-causal nature of political refugee migration. Given the projected augmentation of deleterious disasters associated with climate change, these results underscore the need for an international legal framework to address and acknowledge migrant populations, whose decision to move was heavily influenced by environmental factors. 

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