Asia-Pacific migration could be affected by climate change

Date: Mar 16, 2012

Noted as being the home to a large percentage of the world's population, the Asia-Pacific region has become the focus of a new study on the potential effects of climate change.

While the environmental impacts of a potential rise in global temperature have been the subject of many scientific studies, a recent paper from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has instead addressed the effects on migration.

The ADB's report - titled Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific - contains some interesting statistics that could have far reaching implications for the countries concerned.

It explains that climate change would have a number of effects - specifically causing sea levels to rise by a measurable amount, but also potentially causing dramatic shifts in weather patterns.

Researchers noted that in 2010-11 there were approximately 42 million people - nearly two times the Australian population - who were "displaced by sudden-onset climate related and environmental disasters".

The Asia-Pacific region possesses a significant amount of communities located on the shoreline - with millions living at or near sea level.

When taken into context, the paper raises the question of where these people would migrate to should the oceans rise significantly over the coming decades.

The paper explained: "Given that climate change acts as an aggravating factor for environmental degradation, it is expected to boost the number of people migrating because of environmental changes, both sudden and slow onset.

"Though the amplitude of these movements remains difficult to forecast, climate change is likely to become a major driver of migration in the 21st century."

The director for Social Development at ADB, Bart Edes, told ABC Radio on March 14 that it was important to note the difference between "displaced persons" and "migrants".

Mr Edes said: "People are displaced say by the floods in Thailand last year, many of them moved back once the flood waters subside.

"However, many find that they can't move back or they decide at that point that it's too risky and they seek to start a new life in a safer and more secure location."

With a geologically-sound base and stable economic climate, Australia could become a preferred destination for those people seeking a new life away from areas wracked by storms and tidal flooding.

While the scenarios posed in the paper have yet to come to pass, it could be that many more visitors to Australia will be seeking the assistance of lawyers in immigration to explore their residency options.