Next Article in Journal
An Analysis of Decoupling and Influencing Factors of Carbon Emissions from the Transportation Sector in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Area, China
Previous Article in Journal
Integrating Social Values and Ecosystem Services in Systematic Conservation Planning: A Case Study in Datuan Watershed
Article Menu
Issue 5 (May) cover image

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 720;

Climate Vulnerability and Human Migration in Global Perspective

Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
Department of Sociology and Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
Asian Demographic Research Institute, School of Sociology and Political Science, Shanghai University, Shanghai 200444, China
Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Vienna Institute of Demography (Austrian Academy of Sciences), Vienna 1020, Austria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michiel van Drunen
Received: 14 March 2017 / Revised: 21 April 2017 / Accepted: 27 April 2017 / Published: 30 April 2017
PDF [1220 KB, uploaded 8 May 2017]


The relationship between climate change and human migration is not homogenous and depends critically on the differential vulnerability of population and places. If places and populations are not vulnerable, or susceptible, to climate change, then the climate–migration relationship may not materialize. The key to understanding and, from a policy perspective, planning for whether and how climate change will impact future migration patterns is therefore knowledge of the link between climate vulnerability and migration. However, beyond specific case studies, little is known about this association in global perspective. We therefore provide a descriptive, country-level portrait of this relationship. We show that the negative association between climate vulnerability and international migration holds only for countries least vulnerable to climate change, which suggests the potential for trapped populations in more vulnerable countries. However, when analyzed separately by life supporting sector (food, water, health, ecosystem services, human habitat, and infrastructure) and vulnerability dimension (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity), we detect evidence of a relationship among more, but not the most, vulnerable countries. The bilateral (i.e., country-to-country) migration show that, on average, people move from countries of higher vulnerability to lower vulnerability, reducing global risk by 15%. This finding is consistent with the idea that migration is a climate adaptation strategy. Still, ~6% of bilateral migration is maladaptive with respect to climate change, with some movement toward countries with greater climate change vulnerability. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; climate vulnerability; international migration; migration flows; life-supporting sectors; ecosystem services climate change; climate vulnerability; international migration; migration flows; life-supporting sectors; ecosystem services

Figure 1

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

Supplementary material


Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Grecequet, M.; DeWaard, J.; Hellmann, J.J.; Abel, G.J. Climate Vulnerability and Human Migration in Global Perspective. Sustainability 2017, 9, 720.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Sustainability EISSN 2071-1050 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top