Climate change and migration: the nexus


Estimated time of reading: ~ 3 minutes

For years, environmental organizations have been addressing the local character of climate change but UN legal documents goals, the economy and countries’ governments have lacked so far in sufficiently recognising this circumstance. In a similar way, the media, and especially their audiences, do not see global warming as a local, domestic problem, but as a problem that, if it already exists, applies to the whole world and thus to some distant, often larger and richer nations. Climate, however, is a living, everyday problem, which has become the elephant in the room and in the global yard.

Unfortunately, global warming is the perfect example of the intertwining of the local and the global perspective. According to the Fifth Report released last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is not only one of the biggest global problems of our time, but its consequences are local: regional climate change, climate extremes, floods and droughts. economic and political instabilities directly affect life in our cities and towns.

The research published in March 2015 in the prestigious American publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, opened a well-known global problem from a completely new angle. A study led by Richard Sieger from Columbia University in the USA showed that the war in Syria and the consequent migrant crisis were mostly caused by climate change.

In an imaginary vision, climatologists look like a man with a hammer who sees a nail in everything, but the mentioned study is not alone in this claim and is based on many years of meteorological data. Namely, the longest and most terrible period of drought was recorded in Syria in the period from 2006 to 2011. Such extremes are a local consequence of global warming, which will be more frequent in the Middle East and the Mediterranean by the end of the century.

Although stemming from global warming, the five-year drought in Syria has not acted globally, but very locally, and has almost destroyed agricultural production in rural areas. This led to the first, initial wave of migration – from villages to cities in Syria. Syrian cities became refuges even before the war began. Refugees, famine and crisis in the following years led to a series of instabilities, to a revolution and the subsequent terrible civil war. After that, the migration continued, towards Europe, increasing the intensive influx of migrants in the south of our continent. In an ironic twist, European leaders are constantly talking about the global problem caused locally by the war in Syria.

To raise awareness on the issue of migrants and global climate change, the Glasgow conference will hold a special session as a side event dedicated to this issue. Its objectives are to raise awareness of the links between migration, displacement, planned relocation and disasters, climate change and environmental degradation in West Africa, to demonstrate how partnerships contribute to facilitating pathways for regular migration and minimizing displacement in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters in line with the guiding principles and commitments of States in the GCM, Paris Agreement and the recommendations of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement. It also aims to highlight solutions for people compelled to move in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation in West Africa.

These issues will hopefully come to the agenda as of this Glasgow conference since the world leaders are preoccupied with what might happen within the discourse of other major problems such as economy, politics, wars, and energy supply issues.

Written by: Nenad Stekić

Submitted on: 27.10.2021.

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