A cyberseminar organized by the Population-Environment Research Network in November 2011, brought together academics and practitioners from around the world to discuss the topic of population displacement. Each expert offered a research study they had been participating in to advance the knowledge surrounding population displacement and climate change. The cyberseminar addressed how communities can better prepare for population displacement and resettlement associated with climate change and large climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

Population displacement resulting from climate change is already a significant concern for developing countries. Grim forecasts from various organizations suggest that as many as 1 billion humans could be displaced from climate change impacts by 2050. Groups like the Population-Environment Research Network are dedicated to gathering the world’s top thinkers on how to alleviate these concerns.

The cyberseminar addressed two types of future resettlement: one stems from direct climate impacts, the other is resettlement owing to large scale mitigation and adaptation projects that are intended to alleviate climate change risks such as coastal defences. This PDF presentation is an informative slide show on climate change and coastal defences.

The topic of resettlement often elicits ambivalence about how many people could be relocated and the potential ensuing conflicts. The cyberseminar explored why it is critical to think about this topic to improve outcomes for resettled communities, particularly concerning planning and capacity building. Participants also discussed adaptive responses that have been used in regions suffering from climate change such as investments in existing infrastructure to improve resilience against disasters.

Questions presented included:

  • Under what circumstances could displacement and resettlement due to direct climate impacts be necessary?
  • Which countries or regions (or types of regions) are most likely to require resettlement?
  • The study of displacement and resettlement has been fragmented among different agencies (e.g. refugee agencies, disaster response agencies, and development agencies) and corresponding research communities. Given the likelihood displacements will increase with climate change, how do we foster truly interdisciplinary research that borrows from all branches?

ACT will study climate change adaptation and population displacement as its seventh session in 2013. The time is right for Canada to prepare for this new reality at all levels of government in order to capitalize opportunities and offset impending challenges.

article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah