In 1995, the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report not only concluded that the climate was changing, but also that it was changing due to “a discernable human influence.” This was among the first times that the link between human activity and global environmental change was officially recognized.

Since then, dialogue surrounding climate change has largely focused upon its impacts on ecosystem health and natural resource management, and increasingly on climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Largely overlooked, however, has been the impact of the climate crisis on communities that can no longer remain in place due to short-term and long-term natural disasters. This elision extends to international and intranational protections for climate-induced displaced person.

Under the climate crisis, the need for secure and comprehensive pathways for labor migration is especially pronounced when it comes to key populations, such as migrant workers themselves. Migrant workers typically move to areas that are highly exposed to climate impacts, including low-lying land that is susceptible to floods, storms, or landslides, and many live in poorly constructed housing, compounding their vulnerability. These risks are thus pronounced for people already displaced due to social, political, economic, and environmental reasons in that they may face secondary or repeated displacement due to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Clearer and more secure pathways for labor migration may mitigate some of these challenges and form part of proactive, long-term, and comprehensive strategies for addressing displacement, especially in the context of the climate crisis. It is therefore vital that schemes or policies aiming to increase and enhance labor migration opportunities for people impacted by the climate crisis are driven by the needs of families and communities, including women; have robust safeguards in place to prevent exploitation; and provide opportunities for permanent and seasonal migration.

Read the full article about labor migration and climate change at Othering & Belonging Institute.