Category Archives: Cities

Climate-induced migration: The need for political strategies

 

A man working as a rickshaw puller in Dhaka, a usual job of villagers who come to this booming city for a better income. Often climatic stresses and shocks undermine rural livelihoods. Photo: Steve Evans

A man working as a rickshaw puller in Dhaka, a usual job of villagers who come to this booming city for a better income. Often climatic stresses and shocks undermine rural livelihoods. Photo: Steve Evans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate Service Center, HAMBURG

Climate change is not only throwing ecosystems off balance; it is also threatening the livelihoods of many people, which can result in major migrations. But we are currently lacking both reliable data and effective political strategies to deal with these changes, as a conference organised on July 16-18 by the Climate Service Center and the KlimaCampus pointed out.

The event brought together participants from over 25 countries and included climate and migration researchers, as well as experts from the field of development cooperation. The conference also produced a declaration, in which the participants called for an official legal status to be established for those people forced to migrate as a result of climate change.

In order for that to happen, though, we would first need a definition that reflected a range of complex considerations. After all, not every extreme weather event is due to climate change. Further, mass migrations are often sparked by the economic repercussions of climate change, whereas the current definition of a refugee is limited to the victims of persecution on the part of the state.

Prof. Jürgen Scheffran, head of the CliSAP working group “Climate Change and Security,” summarizes the problem in brief, namely: “Who should decide whether someone is a climate-induced migrant or an economic migrant?” Questions like this one could pose serious new challenges, e.g. when entire countries are threatened by climate change and the fleeing masses cross international borders. “However, climate-induced migration most often takes place within national borders,” explains Scheffran.

The conference participants also called for more intensive cooperation between the fields of climate and migration research. Historically, there has been little interaction between the two; yet cooperation is necessary if the goal is to translate research findings into actual implementation strategies: “Scientific findings provide an important decision-making basis for politicians,” explains Prof. Maria Máñez Costa, head of the Economics and Policy Department at the Climate Service Center. The more the livelihoods of local communities are threatened, the less they can successfully adapt to the effects of climate change. Instead of responding to threats as they arise, it is more important to strengthen the affected regions in advance – for example, by preparing scientific risk assessments.

The Hamburg Conference Declaration

Video with interviews and comments

Redefining disasters

photofeature based on images from the India Disasters Report II
A woman awaits the ferry to cross the Kosi river from Sundari village in Madhubani district of Bihar to the mainland. The village is caught between the river’s different flows, and often gets flooded.

A woman awaits the ferry to cross the Kosi river from Sundari village in Madhubani district of Bihar to the mainland. The village is caught between the river’s different flows, and often gets flooded.

By Max Martin

Against a grim backdrop of natural hazards, rapid growth of industries, urbanisation and other human interventions – including conflicts – put local communities at increased risks on several counts.  People may lose their homes, livelihoods and their sense of security. For many poor communities living on the margins of the industrial nation and the political mainstream, day-to-day life becomes a confrontation with such risk factors.

A new book, India Disasters Report II: Redefining Disasters (OUP: 2013), looks at this phenomenon critically and challengs us to take a hard look at the way we think about disasters.

Put together by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and brought out by the Oxford University Press, the publication thematically addresses different aspects of disasters such as vulnerability, development, environment, gender, health, information, communication, and technology. It evaluates and contributes to government and humanitarian initiatives to make disaster preparedness and response more effective. In this sequel to India Disasters Report: Towards a Policy Initiative (OUP: 2000), the editors,  Prof S. Parasuraman, and  Dr Unni Krishnan have compiled contributions from academics, humanitarian workers, scientists, engineers, media professionals and analysts.

The report explains how natural and social systems are bound together and probes why devising policies and action on disaster prevention, relief, and sustainable and inclusive development are challenging tasks. The report calls for a regional approach in disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action.

A set of black-and-white photos in the book offers a parallel narrative of the people involved and their places. Most of these images have been shot under rather grim circumstances, especially when communities were rebuilding their lives and livelihoods after crises.  Still the people featured had ingenious ways to deal with their circumstances. They were always friendly, kind and hospitable –  with a lot of hope.

Link to the photofeature