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Journal Article

Climate change and international migration: Exploring the macroeconomic channel


Rikani,  Albano
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Frieler,  Katja
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Schewe,  Jacob
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Rikani, A., Frieler, K., Schewe, J. (2022): Climate change and international migration: Exploring the macroeconomic channel. - PloS ONE, 17, 11, e0276764.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27543
International migration patterns, at the global level, can to a large extent be explained through economic factors in origin and destination countries. On the other hand, it has been shown that global climate change is likely to affect economic development over the coming decades. Here, we demonstrate how these future climate impacts on national income levels could alter the global migration landscape. Using an empirically calibrated global migration model, we investigate two separate mechanisms. The first is through destination-country income, which has been shown consistently to have a positive effect on immigration. As countries’ income levels relative to each other are projected to change in the future both due to different rates of economic growth and due to different levels of climate change impacts, the relative distribution of immigration across destination countries also changes as a result, all else being equal. Second, emigration rates have been found to have a complex, inverted U-shaped dependence on origin-country income. Given the available migration flow data, it is unclear whether this dependence—found in spatio-temporal panel data—also pertains to changes in a given migration flow over time. If it does, then climate change will additionally affect migration patterns through origin countries’ emigration rates, as the relative and absolute positions of countries on the migration “hump” change. We illustrate these different possibilities, and the corresponding effects of 3°C global warming (above pre-industrial) on global migration patterns, using climate model projections and two different methods for estimating climate change effects on macroeconomic development.