Skip to content
Hosein Charbaghi/Unsplash

A Conceptual Model of Climate Change and Human Mobility Interactions

The model summarises relevant cause-effect relations between climate change and human mobility, as well as a number of intervening variables that moderate the relationship between them.

Research Paper

Published on 31 May 2022

This paper presents a conceptual model of climate change and human mobility interactions. The model outlines possible pathways connecting climate hazards and climate adaptation with different modes of human mobility. Moreover, it discusses a number of social, political, economic, legal etc. variables that intervene in these pathways and affect adaptation options and mobility decisions in the wake of sudden and slow-onset climatic hazards. 

Key insights:  

  • Different pathways connect climate change, climate adaptation & migration. Some lead to more- and some lead to less mobility.
  • In some cases, mobility is an effective strategy to adapt to climate change by leaving highly exposed areas, seeking less climate sensitive livelihoods & supporting their family & community with remittances.
  • But in other cases climate shocks can undermine people’s ability to move and trap them in places where they are highly exposed.
  • In yet other cases, people might decide to stay, even though they are facing dire prospects. 
  • The effects of climate change on mobility decisions will depend on a number of factors: First, individual characteristics like age, gender or disability influence people’s ability to adapt to climate change & to benefit from mobility opportunities.
  • Second, people face very different conditions when it comes to accessing relevant information & different capitals (physical, human, social, etc.) that facilitate climate adaptation & mobility. 
  • Third, opportunities for both, adaptation & mobility are shaped by a number of conditions in people’s political, social, cultural, economic, legal & technological environment.
  • For example, land ownership can increase people’s capacity and incentives to adapt in situ, while access to social networks & the presence of strong diaspora ties are crucial for adaptation strategies betting on mobility & remittances.
  • Hence, context & people’s position in society matter a great deal when it comes to possible interactions between climate change & migration. The paper discusses important factors to consider here.