Voluntary migration can help cope with climate change: Study

Kolkata, Oct 21 (IANS) Transformative measures, like offering alternative livelihoods and voluntary migration, as compared to curative support for forced migration, are needed to cope with climate change, says a new study.

Such measures are also needed to enhance communities’ resilience against climate-related impacts, it says.

In the paper, “Identifying the Policy Space for Climate Loss and Damage”, published on Friday in the journal “Science”, researchers from Austria have defined the policy space for loss and damage with two sets of options where developed and developing countries could agree on international support and action, in addition to support on adaptation or disaster risk management.

“Novel, transformative measures are needed, such as offering alternative livelihoods (e.g., switching from farming to services) and voluntary migration, as compared to curative support for forced migration,” said Reinhard Mechler, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and the Universities of Vienna and Graz.

“The impacts of climate change are being felt in all continents and in every ocean on the planet,” said Mechler.

In these cases, said Mechler and co-author Thomas Schinko, countries need assistance in responding, but there has been a “contentious debate between vulnerable countries and developed nations about the extent of such assistance” and the form that it should take.

This debate was institutionalised in 2013 via the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage and further endorsed by the Paris Agreement in 2015, yet the exact remit of loss and damage has not been clarified.

They said there is space for countries to come to agreement on the topic and proceed with action.

“Relying on national resources has generally not sufficed to reduce risk sufficiently in these countries, particularly for those in the Pacific, Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, and support from the international community has been required,” the study notes.

In the study, based on recent advances in risk science, the researchers lay out a framework for loss and damage in terms of supporting measures that can help vulnerable people survive, adapt and even become more resilient in the face of irreversible climate change impacts.

The first set of options refers to support for curative measures, which deal with un-avoided and unavoidable risks.

“For example, given increasing sea levels induced by climate change, there is need to upgrade coastal protection. Melting glaciers increase the risk of glacial lake outbursts, for which additional protection efforts are required. At high levels of warming, impacts become unavoidable, and people may be forced to migrate, for which international legal protection is essential,” the experts said.

The second set of options refers to the concept of transformative risk management, which means building resilience against climate-related impacts while also realising that people and communities will need support to learn new skills and develop new livelihoods, or even voluntarily migrate to new homes to cope with the impacts of climate change.

“When the water is up to your nose, doing just a little bit more on risk is not enough,” said Schinko, adding, “Transformative risk management goes beyond traditional risk management. It is about people and enhancing their resilience broadly.”

Implications of these findings will be presented at a side event with negotiators, NGOs and other researchers on November 7 at COP22 in Marrakesh.