Understanding Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change

February 9, 2022

The impacts of climate change are starkly visible in countries across the world. Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and storms, but also long-term processes such as sea level rise, increasing day- and nighttime temperatures, soil degradation, and salinization affect households, communities, and societies. Agriculture, water resources, fisheries, and forestry are among the most climate-vulnerable sectors, but all aspects of national and local economies are faced with their own sets of risks, liabilities, and transformations.

Through these far-reaching impacts, climate change also influences the patterns of human mobility, the movement of people between rural and urban areas or across international borders. Human mobility can be described as a function of aspirations within a given set of geographical differences (perceived) opportunities. Such patterns of mobility are deeply interconnected with their broader socioeconomic environment and can be characterized by their duration, distance, direction, choice, motivation, and demographic background.

Researching climate change and human mobility

Migration and displacement can take many forms and affects not only migrants themselves but also host communities as well as those staying behind, which are in many cases women and children. Depending on the circumstances and the support received, human mobility can constitute a successful adaptation strategy or negatively affect physical health, mental health, social cohesion, livelihoods, and wellbeing of individuals, households and communities. It is therefore crucial to identify key challenges, strengthen the enabling environment of policies, laws, and support systems, and design interventions that are context-specific, locally led, and fit for purpose.

To contribute to a more comprehensive and robust understanding of this complex nexus, SLYCAN Trust is conducting thematic research and analysis on human (im)mobility in the context of climate change. With activities in Asia, Africa, and Europe, SLYCAN Trust aims to collect evidence, engage diverse stakeholders, and shed light on different sectors and aspects related to migration, displacement, and planned relocation. This includes connecting human mobility to climate change adaptation and resilience-building, food systems, risk management, sustainable development, human health, ecosystem conservation and natural resources, human-wildlife coexistence, livelihood diversification, landscape management, social protection, trade, entrepreneurship, just transition, informal employment, gender, youth, and special needs.

SLYCAN Trust’s research activities include the development of knowledge products, engagement with key actors and stakeholders on the international and national level, awareness creation and knowledge sharing through webinars and media outreach, and capacity-building of local communities. The current countries of focus include Sri Lanka, Ghana, and Niger, with country-level consultations and policy analysis conducted in all three countries in partnership and collaboration with government agencies, multilateral entities, and civil society organizations working on this thematic area, including IOM, CSOs in Ghana and Niger, and the governments of Ghana and Niger.

SLYCAN Trust’s work portfolio on climate change and human mobility

The following publications, recordings, articles, and blog posts have been developed and disseminated as part of this workstream so far:

1. Knowledge products

2. Webinar series

3. Articles and blog posts

We encourage other actors and stakeholders to engage with us in this endeavor and hope to facilitate an open and productive exchange of experiences, data, insights, good practices, and lessons learned on human mobility in the context of climate change. If you are working on this topic and would be interested in starting a conversation, please reach out to our Director: Research & Knowledge Management, Mr. Dennis Mombauer, under [email protected].

Related Articles

Thematic Areas


About the Author

SLYCAN Trust is a non-profit think tank. It has been a registered legal entity in the form of a trust since 2016, and a guarantee limited company since 2019. The entities focus on the thematic areas of climate change, adaptation and resilience, sustainable development, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, and animal welfare. SLYCAN Trust’s activities include legal and policy research, education and awareness creation, capacity building and training, and implementation of ground level action. SLYCAN Trust aims to facilitate and contribute to multi-stakeholder driven, inclusive and participatory actions for a sustainable and resilient future for all.