Media, Myths and the reality of Climate Migration

Can climate migration myths be debunked?
David Durand-Delacre

Scholars interested in the relationship between climate change and human migration have repeatedly noted the persistence of several problematic myths marked by simplistic assumptions about this relationship. The image conjured is of mass international migrations caused by climate change alone. In this presentation, David will begin by reviewing these myths and why they worry so many experts on climate mobilities. He draws on a collective piece led by Dr Ingrid Boas, arguing that we can debunk these myths if we adopt a climate mobilities agenda that (1) challenges deterministic causal reasoning, (2) expands our understanding of how people move, (3) stops treating migration as an exceptional phenomenon, (4) diversifies methods for the study of climate mobilities, (5) better incorporates the views of vulnerable populations, and (6) turns our attention also to destination areas.

While more nuanced, accurate knowledge of climate mobilities is needed and a climate mobilities agenda holds much promise, a decade of research debunking climate migration myths has been insufficient to dislodge them from the media, policymaking discussions, and wider public consciousness. The remainder of the presentation asks why, and what can be done about it, drawing on work with a wide-ranging network of stakeholders engaged in discussions about climate migration.


Climate migration from Central America. Myths and Realities
Bernardo Bolaños & Marcelo Olivera

This presentation will address Hein de Haas’ (“The fabrication of a migration threat”, 2020) relativistic challenge concerning climate migrants. The 6th IPCC assessment report, August 9, 2021, projects the increase of droughts in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. This anticipates the continuity of migratory flows towards North America and the emergence of others towards the Andean areas (affected, however, by the melting of glaciers).

In November 2020, hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Honduras. Shortly after a new caravan of displaced people walked toward the US. In our talk, we consider the effects of weather and the propensity of individuals to leave a territory by measuring the importance of rain precipitation or the lack of it in one of the critical food corridors of Central America, formed by El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. To study the mobility process, we have developed a stochastic frontier model; the main result shows a greater propensity to migrate when there is a significant drought event in the place of origin. These results permit us to derive observable implications of the different effects of flooding and drought.

It is not clear which is the correct legal path to address the situation of displacement induced by the environmental global change. Is it the recognition of climate refugees or, more broadly, environmental refugees? Or is it preferable to create a specific legal category different of refugee?