Migration to EU to increase with global warming, new study says

A recent study published by Science magazine has once again highlighted a potential connection between climate and migration, stressing how, by the end of this century, climate change could lead to a significant increase in asylum requests in Europe.

According to a recent study carried out by two researchers from Columbia University and published by Science magazine, climate change will lead to a strong increase in migrations towards Europe.

The study said that, in the worst-case scenario, some 660,000 additional asylum requests could be filed in EU countries every year from now until 2100.

Increase forecast until 2100

The two authors of the research, Anouch Missirian and Wolfram Schlenker, examined, ”how, in the recent past (2000-2014)”, changes in temperature ”in 103 source countries translated into asylum applications to the European Union, which averaged 351,000 per year in our sample”.

Environmental activists hold a protest outside a German coal-fired power plant near Bonn on Friday 3 November 2017 in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference. Global warming’s worst offenders, in absolute terms, are the US, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the UK / Photo: Friends of the Earth International


Based on their analysis, the researchers wrote that ”we find that temperatures that deviated from the moderate optimum (~20C) increased asylum applications in a nonlinear fashion, which implies an accelerated increase under continued future warming”.

”Asylum applications by the end of the century are predicted to increase, on average, by 28 per cent (98,000 additional asylum applications per year)” in a condition of moderate global warming and ”by 188 per cent (660,000 additional applications per year)” in more severe cases.

Study ‘useful for future policies’

”Two hundred, 300 years ago, there were mass crop failures in Europe, and that led to huge migration decisions”, Schlenker told the Washington Post. ”But I was surprised that even in today’s environment, we find this significant and robust relationship”.

The study carried has reopened the debate on the connection between global warming and migration, a controversial issue which has been widely debated by researchers.

Already in 2015 a study on the connection between the Syrian conflict, migrations and climate change had divided the international scientific community. Bob Ward, a policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment from the London School of Economics, who took part in the research, told British newspaper The Guardian that ”this study shows how Europe will be impacted by one of the most serious effects of climate change.

“Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of people will be exposed to coastal sea level rise and shifts in extreme weather that will cause mass migrations away from the most vulnerable locations”, he continued.

The professor stressed that the research’s results should be taken under serious consideration in future migration and environment policies.


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