Human World

Alex deSherbinin on human migrations from climate change

Alex deSherbinin: It’s a bit like a massive uncontrolled experiment…

That’s environmental researcher Alex deSherbinin of Columbia University, talking about the potential impacts of climate change on humans. Scientists believe climate change may force people in environmentally stressed regions to migrate.

Alex deSherbinin: We could see drying, to a degree that agriculture is no longer tenable, so people have to move out of those areas.

DeSherbinin is referring specifically to sub-Saharan Africa. But in Bangladesh, another vulnerable area, he suggested rising sea levels may be the problem.

Alex deSherbinin: I could see situations where you see people moving back from low-lying coastal areas, parts of the Ganges Delta becoming largely uninhabitable.

Still, deSherbinin’s unsure when, or if people will leave their homes. Because migration is also driven by social forces – not just environmental ones.

Alex deSherbinin: We cannot adequately model or foresee what kind of responses individual households or families or whole communities will take once situations change.

Even in the US, where drought is forecast, many may choose to stay put.

Our thanks to:
Alex deSherbinin
CIESIN, Columbia University
New York

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January 9, 2009
Human World

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