Climate change and international migration flows are phenomena which attract a great deal of attention from policymakers, researchers and the general public around the globe. Are these two phenomena related? Is migration an adaptation strategy to sudden or gradual changes in climate? The aim of this study is to provide insights on the direct and indirect channels which link climate change and international mobility and to derive plausible quantitative estimations of such links based on econometric analysis. In an augmented gravity-like equation on the determinants of international bilateral migration flows  – towards OECD countries from a large set of developing countries in the period 1990-2006 – we test the relevance of climate anomalies with respect to long-term average temperature and precipitation. One important novelty in our approach is the explicit consideration in the empirical analysis of the heterogeneous nature of climate shocks, i.e positive vs negative variations of temperature and precipitations; non linear effects of climate change; threshold effects of climate anomalies; repeated vs isolated events etc. Our results show that climate changes are positively related to international migration but it is fundamental to consider the type of changes, i.e. negative versus positive shocks to precipitation and temperature, and where they happen, as for instance in relatively poorer or richer countries, or in urbanized versus rural economies. Although the analysis conducted is far from being conclusive on the complex relationship between climate change and migration, it offers interesting insights and calls for complementary methodological approaches.

This research has been conducted within the CIRCE (Climate Change and Impact Research: the Mediterranean Environment) project funded by the European Commission Contract No 036961 GOCE.    JEL code: Q54, F22 – Keywords: climate change; international migration; gravity model

This seminar has been jointly organized by FEEM and IEFE, Bocconi University.