Issues related to environmentally driven migration are at the core of the population-environment studies agenda. It is an interdisciplinary topic of interest to researchers and policymakers, and has commanded only more attention because of the potential impacts of climate change. The identification of environmentally displaced people as migrants or refugees has become one of the major discussions in the migration and environment literature because of its potential political and policy implications. Still, there is no wide agreement on what constitutes an environmentally induced displacement, nor are there statistics available to assess the magnitude of the flows.

The overall purpose of the seminar was to determine if there is consensus on the definitional issues as well as on the magnitude of flows, and what the evidence shows from regional studies regarding the relative weight of environmental versus other factors in displacing populations. It examined the evidence for significant population displacements from areas deemed to be environmentally degraded or highly hazard-prone. It also reviewed evidence for migration out of metropolitan areas or industrial zones owing to air pollution or health concerns. It focused on the type and demographic features of these migratory streams: family or individual moves; age and sex profile of migrants; social and economic characteristics; probability of return; and length of stay at the destination. The cyberseminar also considered potential future population displacements as a result of climate change—in particular, changes in rainfall patterns and sea-level rise, which some have claimed will dwarf all contemporary population movements.

Susana Adamo, the co-coordinator of PERN and an associate research scientist at Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESEN), authored a background paper for the seminar, "Addressing Environmentally Induced Population Displacements: A Delicate Task."

Response Papers:

This cyberseminar was organized by the Population-Environment Research Network (PERN) in collaboration with the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


  • Susana Adamo

    Associate Research Scientist, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University
  • Clark Gray

    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Alisson Flávio Barbieri

    Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • Graeme Hugo

    University of Adelaide, Australia
  • Haydea Izazola

    Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, Mexico