Fears of the movement of large numbers of people as a result of changes in the environment were first voiced in the 1980s (ref. 1). Nearly thirty years later the numbers likely to migrate as a result of the impacts of climate change are still, at best, guesswork2. Owing to the high prevalence of rainfed agriculture, many livelihoods in sub-Saharan African drylands are particularly vulnerable to changes in climate. One commonly adopted response strategy used by populations to deal with the resulting livelihood stress is migration. Here, we use an agent-based model developed around the theory of planned behaviour to explore how climate and demographic change, defined by the ENSEMBLES project3 and the United Nations Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs4, combine to influence migration within and from Burkina Faso. The emergent migration patterns modelled support framing the nexus of climate change and migration as a complex adaptive system5. Using this conceptual framework, we show that the extent of climate-change-related migration is likely to be highly nonlinear and the extent of this nonlinearity is dependent on population growth; therefore supporting migration policy interventions based on both demographic and climate change adaptation.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $17.75 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
El Hinnawi, E. Environmental Refugees (United Nations Environment Programme, 1985).
Boko, M. et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. (eds Parry, M. L., Canziani, O. F., Palutikof, J. P., van der Linden, P. J. & Hanson, C. E.) 433–467 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
van der Linden, P. & Mitchell, J.F.B. (eds) ENSEMBLES: Climate Change and its Impacts: Summary of Research and Results from the ENSEMBLES Project (Met Office Hadley Centre, 2009).
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision (2011).
Rammel, C., Stagl, S. & Wilfing, H. Managing complex adaptive systems—A co-evolutionary perspective on natural resource management. Ecol. Econ. 63, 9–21 (2007).
Castles, S. Environmental Change and Forced Migration: Making Sense of the Debate (Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees, 2002).
Piguet, E. Linking climate change, environmental degradation, and migration: A methodological overview. Climate Change 1, 517–524 (2010).
Jonsson, G. The Environmental Factor in Migration Dynamics—A Review of African Case Studies. Working Paper 21 (Univ. Oxford International Migration Institute, 2010).
Black, R. et al. Climate change: Migration as adaptation. Nature 478, 477–479 (2011).
Black, R., Kniveton, D. & Schmidt-Verkerk, K. Migration and climate change: Towards an integrated assessment of sensitivity. Environ. Plann. A 43, 431–450 (2011).
Massey, D. et al. Worlds in Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millenium (Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).
Konseiga, A. Household migration decisions as survival strategy: The case of Burkina Faso. J. Afr. Econ. 16, 198–233 (2006).
Thomas, D. S. G. Arid Zone Geomorphology 3rd edn (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
Cordell, D. D., Gregory, J. W. & Piché, V. Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa (Westview, 1996).
Jager, W. et al. Behaviour in commons dilemmas: Homo economicus and Homo psychologicus in an ecological-economic model. Ecol. Econ. 35, 357–379 (2000).
Todaro, M. P. A model of labor migration and urban unemployment in less developed countries. Am. Econ. Rev. 59, 138–148 (1969).
Harris, J. R. & Todaro, M. P. Migration, unemployment and development: A two-sector analysis. Am. Econ. Rev. 60, 126–142 (1970).
Silveira, J. J., Espindola, A. L. & Penna, T. J. P. Agent-based model to rural-urban migration analysis. Physica A 364, 445–456 (2006).
Tacoli, C. Crisis or adaptation? Migration and climate change in a context of high mobility. Environ. Urban. 21, 513–525 (2009).
Ajzen, I. The theory of planned behavior. Organ. Behav. Human Dec. Proces. 50, 179–211 (1991).
Poirier, J. & Dabiré, B. Projet d’étude des strategies de reproduction des populations sahéliennes á partir de l’enquête ‘Dynamique migratoire, insertion urbaine et environnement au Burkina Faso’. Cahiers Québécois de Démographie 30, 289–309 (2001).
Henry, S., Schoumaker, B. & Beauchemin, C. The impact of rainfall on the first out-migration: A multi-level event-History analysis on Burkina Faso. Popul. Environ. 25, 423–460 (2004).
Stark, O. & Bloom, D. E The new economics of labour migration. Am. Econ. Rev. 75, 173–178 (1985).
Watts, D. J. & Strogatz, S. H. Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature 393, 440–442 (1998).
We thank B. Schoumaker for sharing the EMIUB database and C. Caminade for providing the ENSEMBLES data. This work was supported in part by an ESRC/NERC Interdisciplinary Studentship.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Kniveton, D., Smith, C. & Black, R. Emerging migration flows in a changing climate in dryland Africa. Nature Clim Change 2, 444–447 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1447
Climate and Development (2020)
Journal of The Royal Society Interface (2020)
SSRN Electronic Journal (2019)
Earth's Future (2019)
Earth's Future (2019)