BACKGROUND: Climate change is projected to cause substantial increases in population movement in coming decades. Previous research has considered the likely causal influences and magnitude of such movements, and risks to national and international security. There has been little research on the consequences of climate related migration for the health of people who move.
OBJECTIVES: In this paper, we explore, first, the role that health impacts of climate change may play in population movements, and then examine the health implications of three types of movements likely to be induced by climate change: forcible displacement by climate impacts, resettlement schemes, and migration as an adaptive response.
METHODS: This risk assessment draws on research into the health of refugees, migrants, and people in resettlement schemes as analogues of the likely health consequences of climate-related migration. Some account is taken of the possible modulation of those health risks by climate change.
DISCUSSION: Climate change-related migration is likely to result in adverse health outcomes, both for displaced and host populations, particularly in situations of forced migration. However, where migration and other mobility are used as adaptive strategies, health risks are likely to be minimised and in some cases there will be health gains.
CONCLUSIONS: Purposeful and timely policy interventions can facilitate the mobility of people, enhance well-being and maximise social and economic development in both places of origin and destination. Nevertheless, the anticipated occurrence of substantial relocation of groups and communities will underscore the fundamental seriousness of human-induced climate change.