There is an evidence, that we're on the beginning of a mass migration caused primarily by the climate change. I often read about latest deterrent policies, such as changes in the law and building of barriers. But whenever there's any expert cited, they say that these won't be sufficient given the scale of the process.

So I wonder, if there's any policy proposal which takes this for granted and tries to come up with the policies that can help us avert (or at least postpone) collapse of the civilisation in the liveable zone of the Earth, such as conflict prevention policies, multicultural education on a mass scale, property laws change, settlement policies, etc?

  • This question would benefit from clarity on what you asking about. The title implies some notion of accommodating migration caused by climate change. That is one thing. But then you talk about averting catastrophe in given locations. That is entirely another. We have pious intentions on #2. On #1, no, no government right now is talking about granting special migration rights to its territory to people from places that are at risk. It's a good question - Bangladesh has 160M people at low elevation & temperatures in other places are already occasionally spiking above human tolerance range Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 2:30
  • There isn't a whole lot of reasonable policy regarding relatively small scale economic migration or refugee movements so I wouldn't hold my breath…
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 9:57
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I'm not sure if I follow you. My assumption is that uncontrolled mass migration will almost surely lead to conflicts between people on a mass scale (wars). And historically, such events led to collapse of civilisations as complex social systems in the destination areas were abandoned. Is this clarification enough for you? Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 15:15

4 Answers 4


At least as far as the Paris Agreement goes, there are no specific measures to support climate-displaced peoples, beyond pledges by the parties to develop general adaptation measures. Also, it is very likely that most countries haven't formalized their own national approaches yet.

That is because Paris Agreement is non-binding, so protections for displaced peoples would fall back to existing national and international laws, with coordination likely conducted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (https://www.unhcr.org/). Whether or not countries are obligated under existing laws to accept climate refugees is still an open question, since current international humanitarian law specifically targets armed-conflict-related displacement (see for example this).

As part of their approach to tackle the human impact of climate change, the UNHCR have launched the (also non-binding) "Nansen Initiative":

The Nansen Initiative is a bottom-up, State-led consultative process with multi-stakeholder involvement. Its objectives are not to draft a convention or a soft-law instrument, but rather to build consensus among interested governments on key principles and elements regarding the protection of persons displaced across borders in the context of disasters and to set a protection agenda for future action that will feed into formal existing processes at domestic, regional and international levels.

Migration is a politically sensitive topic, for example, the recent wave of people displaced from the war in Syria was the likely cause of right-wing anti-immigration parties gaining seats in the 2017 German election. That was dealt with on an ad-hoc basis, which is likely how climate displacements will be handled. So, as far as your question goes, no there aren't (yet) any procedures in place that address the risks that you raise.

  • Thanks, your answer is very general, which is a result of my general question, of course. I will be more specific next time. Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 15:51
  • No problem. I'll try to help with future questions on this subject. I don't think anyone knows the complete answer for many years yet though ;) Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 16:04

Counting climate refugees as equivalent to any other refugee

Ioane Teitiota from Kiribati (a nation of extremely low-lying Pacific islands and atolls) claimed refugee status in New Zealand after his visa expired, on the basis that climate change had made his homeland dangerous to return to. This was not accepted by immigration New Zealand, and he appealed it through the courts, which concurred (see here):

Mr. Teitiota claimed that he was entitled to be recognized as a refugee “on the basis of changes to his environment in Kiribati caused by sea-level-rise associated with climate change.”1 A refugee and protection officer declined to grant refugee status, and this decision was upheld by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal. Mr. Teitiota subsequently sought leave from the High Court to appeal the Tribunal’s decision on questions of law under section 245 of the Immigration Act 2009. His application for leave to appeal to the High Court was declined by both the High Court and Court of Appeal in 2013 and 2014, respectively. On July 20, 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the lower courts and dismissed Mr. Teitiota’s application for leave to appeal.

The supreme court found that while this particular case did not have merit, the general concept of a climate refugee was valid:

It confirmed the lower courts’ findings that, in relation to the Refugee Convention, Mr. Teitiota does not face “serious harm” and further that “there is no evidence that the Government of Kiribati is failing to take steps to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation to the extent that it can.”[18]

The Supreme Court did note, however, the statements of the IPT and High Court that their decisions “did not mean that environmental degradation resulting from climate change or other natural disasters could never create a pathway into the Refugee Convention or protected person jurisdiction.”[19] The Court similarly explicitly stated that its decision in this particular case “should not be taken as ruling out that possibility in an appropriate case.”[20]

He then appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). Again they ruled against him in this specific instance as they found his life would not be placed under immediate threat upon returning to Kiribati, but that the general principle was valid (CNN story, with link to the ruling):

In its ruling, the committee cited articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which ensure an individual's inherent right to life. "Given that the risk of an entire country becoming submerged under water is such an extreme risk, the conditions of life in such a country may become incompatible with the right to life with dignity before the risk is realized," its decision added.

Now this is a UN ruling and as far as I understand such things, they simply set general principles which are intended to guide international law, but are not actually legally binding on any nation. But it does at least lay the groundwork for an expectation of nations to treat climate refugees as legitimate refugees.


Unpleasant "trick" answer...

If by "reasonable" we allow that adjective to include the rational but unethical policies, and consider "policy" in the general sense, and consider policies based erroneous or even criminal premises, (as with a valid but unsound syllogism), then there's already a whole palette of murderously cynical dystopian policies in the bud:

  • Neglect. Violent racists and nationalists, when in positions of power, have a known and longstanding disrespect for equatorial peoples, such that the unethical might willfully disregard or even celebrate the impoverishment or death of migrant groups, and justify such neglect with various excuses, such as...

  • Economics. The unethical might pretend that they'd like to help, but cannot afford to do so. "Not enough to go around."

  • Safety. The unethical might claim the migrants were themselves too dangerous, such that helping migrants would harm the helpers far more than it would ever help the migrants.

  • Blaming the victim. They might blame the migrants' plight not on too much fossil fuel burning, but on the migrants own nations -- arbitrarily disparaging their systems of government, history, culture, religion, or genes as the "true" cause of migration, so the migrants deserve to suffer.

  • Doubling down on fossil fuels. The extremely unethical might support and enable the fossil fuel industry to worsen the greenhouse effect, and the resulting emergencies, such that slower more moderate solutions will be less feasible, and harsher more draconian measures seem more plausible.

  • Pretense. Unethical leaders might sign various complicated international climate agreements, widely advertised to the public as solutions, or first steps in solutions. But after taking credit for signing them, those leaders might plan to later fail to honor those agreements when the time came to do anything. Or prior to signing, such leaders might, if sufficiently influential, work to put in enough loopholes such that the leaders needn't do anything they don't already intend to.

  • Opportunity (for exploitation of the catastrophe). The unethical might zealously look for ways to profit by the resulting migratory misery, using the migratory desperation as a source of one-sided bargains, cheap labor, power politics against non-migrant rival nations, government aid and charitable contracting, (either of which might be swindled), mercenaries, prostitution, organ donors, and de facto (or outright) slavery.

  • 1
    Well, I certainly didn't want to think about these perversions, but as you mention, some of them are quite likely. Still, I would like to learn about more "humanistic" policy proposals, if there are any. Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 17:57
  • This doesn't answer the question but provides a good deal of "they"s to point 👉at. Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 7:06
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, You're right, if the Q. means reasonable and good.
    – agc
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 19:28
  • For some all too real applications of this answer's unethical logic, see First Came the Hurricane, Then Came the Campaign of Terror.
    – agc
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 1:56

The Paris Agreement is a policy proposal to limit the production of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses and prevent warming more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and so avoid the consequences of climate change, and avert (or at least postpone) ecosystem collapse on Earth.

187 countries have ratified the agreement.

The USA will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on 20th November 2020.

  • 2
    Thanks for the answer, but I'm not interested in general international agreements regarding the climate change. I would like to know about conflict prevention, possible changes in property laws, etc. Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 9:36
  • Did any countries obey the agreement? Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 9:45
  • @user253751 2018: "Seven of these countries - Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United States - are off track to meet their Paris promises for the year 2030, the UNEP report finds. So is the entire European Union. Several other G-20 countries - Russia, India and Turkey - are already on course to exceed their Paris promises by a good measure, but the report questions whether this may in part be because they have set their ambitions too low." sciencealert.com/…
    – Evargalo
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 11:44

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