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  • Aaryan Doshi

Climate-induced human migration

climate-induced human migration image: adobe firefly

When we think about climate change, we usually think about rising global temperatures, fossil fuels, rising sea levels, and melting polar ice. But we seldom connect climate change and human migration and displacement.

Thanks to rising global temperatures, hurricanes are more ferocious than ever. Forest cover is fast disappearing. Years of aggressive mono-cropping have caused precious soil nutrients to disappear. Plastic pollution is killing marine life. The sad truth is that the brunt of such disasters is not felt equally across nations. 

Western countries have the resources to handle such disasters with resiliency. They plan to handle such disasters. Even then, it is hard for displaced people to find new homes because they can no longer afford them. In fact, displacement due to climate disasters like hurricanes is a significant cause of homelessness in the USA.

However, most countries do not have the resources to be climate change resilient. When there is a drought and there is no more groundwater, people are forced to leave their homes, fueling water-induced migration. According to the 2021 World Bank report, lack of water itself accounts for 10% of global migration.

Rising ocean temperatures combined with ocean acidification are a leading cause of diminishing marine life, such as salmons and oysters. This disrupts the livelihood of those dependent on fisheries, forcing them to look for alternative economic opportunities.

In Central America, rising storm intensity, and frequency result in devastating losses of crops and homes. It takes years to recover from such natural disasters, but when they strike with increasing frequency and intensity, they sap the human spirit. At this point, the people are ready to undertake the treacherous journey through jungles, forests, and ravines across several countries to reach the USA.

But it does not end with the journey. Climate-induced migration can be directly linked to modern slavery. With their livelihoods decimated, these communities are highly vulnerable to bonded labor, human trafficking, debt bondage, and exploitative labor practices.


Lack of Water Linked to 10 Percent of the Rise in Global Migration. (2021, August 18). World Bank.

McCullough, D. (2023, October 27). How Does Climate Change Affect Fisheries? - Ocean Conservancy. Ocean Conservancy.

How Climate Change Catalyzes More Migration in Central America. (n.d.). United States Institute of Peace.

Climate-induced migration: Trapping people into modern slavery. (2023, May 30). Anti-Slavery International.


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