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Emerging migration flows in a changing climate in dryland Africa

Nature Climate Change volume 2, pages 444447 (2012) | Download Citation

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geography, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QJ, UK

    • Dominic R. Kniveton
    • , Christopher D. Smith
    •  & Richard Black

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Contributions

All authors contributed extensively to the conception of the ABM and the analysis of the results. C.D.S. built and tested the ABM and D.R.K. wrote the bulk of the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dominic R. Kniveton.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1447

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