Planning for the Public Health Effects of Climate Migration

by Maxine A Burkett | December 17, 2018

This post was originally published by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat.

In Alaska's arctic communities, Inuit contemplating the need to relocate have reported that the loss of sea ice would make them feel like they are lost or going crazy. Zika and other vector-borne diseases have been a concern primarily for people in the southeastern United States. Recent research on the long-range internal migration of people from the coasts to the interior suggests a broader national concern regarding "climate augmentation" of disease. These are just two examples of the many public health effects we can expect as climate change forces people to uproot themselves.

Linking Climate Change, Migration, and Health

In the future, extreme climate events — including more severe fast-acting coastal storms, rising seas, and more widespread droughts — will dislocate people and affect our public health infrastructure.

Migration can result in poor health outcomes when migrants find they have to face marginalization and discrimination, poverty, exposure to disease vectors, malnutrition, and crowding. Host communities may also experience increased demand on health services as they seek to accommodate migrants.

Climate change leads to three types of migration-related effects on health: 1) primary or direct effects such as injuries and death resulting from extreme weather events; 2) secondary or indirect effects from the increased geographical range of and populations exposed to new diseases; and 3) tertiary or delayed effects from disrupted ...

Justice and Contemporary Climate Relocation: An Addendum to Words of Caution on 'Climate Refugees'

by Maxine A Burkett | August 10, 2016
This excerpt is drawn from a post originally published on Aug. 8, 2016, by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat. The idea that climate change is causing migration and displacement is entering the mainstream, but experts have warned against using the term "climate refugees" to describe what we're seeing in small islands, coastal regions, and even conflict zones like Syria. Geoff Dabelko's 2007 post on climate change and migration was an early and important clarification of this emerging phenomenon. He ...
Recommended Resources:
Climate Change
Time for Real Action on Global Warming

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