You are here

Climate Migration

What is the history of Climate Migration in Central America?

As communities must adapt to the effects of climate change, migration and forced displacement remain one of the most extreme strategies to cope with the crisis’s consequences. Those who relocate, willingly or otherwise are called 'climate refugees.'  Researchers have recognized the connection between the effects of climate change and migration in Central America since the late 1990’s with extreme weather events linking climate change and migration[1]. Extreme weather events, including earthquakes and hurricanes, served as the initial evidence associating climate change and migration[3]. Hurricane Mitch which swept through Central America in 1998 and caused emmigration from countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador precipitated further interest in the influence of climate change on emigration[1]. 

What does climate migration look like now?

Both internal and external migration from the region will be augmented due to climate change. A World Bank report predicts that 2 million people will be forcibly displaced from Central America due to the effects of climate change by 2050[4], and within Latin America, approximately 17 million people (2.6% of the region’s population) could internally migrate within the region[4]. 

What is causing climate change migration directly?

The effects of drought and extreme weather—effects of the climate crisis—exacerbate pre-existing reasons for migration, including

  • Food scarcity
  • Unemployment
  • Violence
  • Poverty[2,7]

How do we move forward?

Currently, international law does not acknowledge the term climate change refugee as a valid status[5,6]. In order to enact the necessary planning and strategies related to climate migration, many scholars and researchers affirm that climate refugees must be legally acknowledged so that governments and organizations can access much needed resources. Beyond the legal issues encompassing climate migration, a concerted effort must be undertaken towards further climate adaptation planning based on sustainable regional development and inclusive policies especially directed towards the agricultural sector[1,4]. All of these steps require both individual and collective actions and advocacy.