Climate Change, Inequality and Human Migration


Event Date

Andrews Room 2203 SS&H

Speaker: Michal Burzynski, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)

Abstract: This paper investigates the long-term implications of climate change on global migration and inequality. Accounting for the effects of changing temperatures, sea levels, and the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, we model the impact of climate change on productivity and utility in a dynamic general equilibrium framework. By endogenizing people’s migration decisions across millions of 5 x 5 km spatial cells, our approach sheds light on the magnitude and dyadic, education-specific structure of human migration induced by global warming. We find that climate change strongly intensifies global inequality and poverty, reinforces urbanization, and boosts migration from low- to high-latitude areas. Median projections suggest that climate change will induce a voluntary and a forced permanent relocation of 62 million working-age individuals over the course of the 21st century. Overall, under current international migration laws and policies, only a small fraction of people suffering from the negative effects of climate change manages to move beyond their homelands. We conclude that it is unlikely that climate shocks will induce massive international flows of migrants, except under combined extremely pessimistic climate scenarios and highly permissive migration policies. In contrast, poverty resulting from climate change is a real threat to all of us.