Letter | Published:

Heat stress increases long-term human migration in rural Pakistan

Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 182185 (2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

Human migration attributable to climate events has recently received significant attention from the academic and policy communities 1,2. Quantitative evidence on the relationship between individual, permanent migration and natural disasters is limited 3,4,5,6,7,8,9. A 21-year longitudinal survey conducted in rural Pakistan (1991–2012) provides a unique opportunity to understand the relationship between weather and long-term migration. We link individual-level information from this survey to satellite-derived measures of climate variability and control for potential confounders using a multivariate approach. We find that flooding—a climate shock associated with large relief efforts—has modest to insignificant impacts on migration. Heat stress, however—which has attracted relatively little relief—consistently increases the long-term migration of men, driven by a negative effect on farm and non-farm income. Addressing weather-related displacement will require policies that both enhance resilience to climate shocks and lower barriers to welfare-enhancing population movements.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for assistance and constructive comments from M. Auffhammer, M. Call, P. Dorosh, S. Hamza Haider, S. Hausladen, L. Hunter, J. Koo, H. L. Lee, S. Malik, J-F. Maystadt, H. Nazli, C. Ringler, W. Schlenker, E. Schmidt, T. Thomas, H. Tilahun, H. Xie, T. Zhu, and Innovative Development Strategies in this research. The participation of C.G. was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R00HD061752).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. International Food Policy Research InstituteWashington DC 20006 USA

    • V. Mueller
    •  & K. Kosec
  2. Department of Geography, University of North CarolinaChapel Hill, North Carolina 27599 USA

    • C. Gray

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Contributions

V.M., C.G. and K.K. designed and performed the research, analysed the data, and wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to V. Mueller.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2103

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