Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict: Addressing Complex Crisis Scenarios in the 21st Century
Press Release

RELEASE: Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict: Addressing Complex Crisis Scenarios in the 21st Century

Press Contacts

  • Christina DiPasquale

By Michael Werz and Laura Conley | January 3, 2012

To read the full report, click here.

To watch a video introduction to the issue, click here.

Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress today released “Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict,” the first in a series of reports that examines the implications of the intersection of climate change, human migration, and conflict, and provides recommendations to address the challenges this nexus poses. These three factors are already beginning to combine in ways that undermine traditional understandings of national security and demand a rethink of traditional divisions between diplomacy, defense, and development policy abroad.

No matter what steps the global community takes to mitigate carbon emissions, a warmer climate is inevitable, and every nation will experience some of the effects and have to adapt accordingly. While the root causes of migration are difficult to parse, experts estimate that the number of climate migrants—people displaced by the slow or sudden onset of the effects of climate change—will increase dramatically in decades to come. Even for those not driven by the direct effects of climate change, changing conditions will render certain livelihoods untenable.

The strains of climate change have the potential to spark conflicts for scarce resources, particularly water and pasture land. Massive migration can also overwhelm authorities, upset traditional social structures, and act as a “threat multiplier.” As the number of migrants continues to grow, driven in part by environmental degradation, the adaptive capacity of states worldwide will be strained, and new security gaps will appear in which nonstate actors have the potential to flourish.

Addressing this nexus—of climate change, migration, and conflict—will be a core challenge for the United States and the international community in the 21st century and will require understanding, preparation, and new models of regional cooperation. Relatively inexpensive investments now pale in comparison to the potential costs of future interventions. This report outlines important steps that should be taken now, including:

  • Reform the institutional structure of the U.S. government to address the development-security relationship and prioritize planning for the long-term humanitarian consequences of climate migration as a core national security issue.
  • Create a unified national security budget integrating defense, diplomacy, and development funding.
  • Include climate migration in the implementation of the Global Development Policy.
  • Strengthen the Department of State and USAID’s capacity to cooperate with regional bodies on trans-boundary risks.
  • Push internationally for action on the Guiding Principles on International Displacement and work toward a legal framework to address migration in a humane way.

To read the full report, click here.

To watch a video introduction to the issue, click here.

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To speak to Michael Werz, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or cdipasquale@americanprogress.org.

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