Concepts, Contexts and Categorizations of Climate Mobility

Background Paper | Unpacking the relationship between climate change and different forms of mobility

A boy walks at dusk across a flooded street in the older part of the flood-damaged city of Gonaives, Haiti.


There is a growing awareness that the adverse impacts of climate change increasingly contribute, directly and indirectly, to different forms of mobility that unfold within countries and across borders.

While, to date, most studies on climate-related migration have focused on adult populations, emerging evidence indicates that children also become uprooted and displaced due to climate change, or they are left behind when parents are compelled to move in search of livelihoods. There is an expanse of research on children and mobility, although not specifically framed as driven by climatic factors. This includes both children’s own mobility, as migrants or refugees, and the mobility of parents who leave children behind in their places of origin.

This literature highlights the multiple risks children encounter during their journeys (e.g. violence, trafficking, forced labour, and other forms of exploitation) and the disadvantaged situation children find themselves in (e.g. high rates of school dropout, poor access to health care and other services), particularly when they move through unofficial and unsafe channels or as unaccompanied minors. These outcomes, in turn, can have lasting implications for children’s development and may reinforce and exacerbate their vulnerability and exposure to climate and other types of risks.

This paper unpacks the relationship between climate change and different forms of mobility and highlights the importance of language for shaping discourses about people on the move, and the role of such discourses in driving policy responses. The paper reflects on the implications these may have for securing the rights and protection of adults and children moving in the context of climate change.

Concepts, Contexts and Categorisations of Climate Mobility
Lucy Szaboova and Cristina Colón
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