Climigration? Population and Climate in the North

Saturday, February 18, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 313 (Hynes Convention Center)
Lawrence Hamilton, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
The towns and villages of Arctic Alaska live on “the front line of climate change.” Some face immediate threats from erosion and flooding associated with thawing permafrost, increasing river flows, and reduced sea ice protection of shorelines. The term climigration, referring to migration caused by climate change, originally was coined for these places. Although initial applications emphasized the need for government relocation policies, it has elsewhere been applied more broadly to encompass unplanned migration as well. Some historical movements have been attributed to climate change, but closer study tends to find multiple causes, making it difficult to quantify the climate contribution. Clearer attribution might come from comparisons of migration rates among places that are similar in most respects, apart from known climatic impacts. We apply this approach using annual 1990–2015 migration time series on 43 Arctic Alaska towns and villages. Within-community time plots show no indication of enhanced out-migration from the most at-risk communities. More formally, there is no significant difference between net migration rates of at-risk and other places, testing several alternative classifications. Although climigration is not detectable to date, growing risks make either planned or unplanned movements unavoidable in the near future.