Communicating Climate Change and Migration
The topics of climate change and human migration attract considerable public and media attention. Together, they represent a potentially explosive combination. Attempts to communicate about climate change and migration risk inflaming two already heated debates. However, the language is not yet entrenched. A major opportunity exists to shape how the debate develops.
This briefing explains the basic principles of good communication on the issues. It is intended for use across the refugee, environmental, human rights and development sectors.
“The relationship between climate change and the movement of people is complex. Beyond the difficulties involved in measuring the impact that climate change is having (and will have) on human migration – within and between national borders, voluntary and involuntary – there is a major communications challenge. Individually, the topics of climate change and human migration attract a considerable degree of public and media attention. Together, they represent a potentially explosive combination, with the risk that attempts to communicate about climate change and migration could inflame two already heated debates.
Inevitably with such a complex problem, different sectors have approached the issue from different angles. Within the UK Climate Change & Migration Coalition (UKCCMC), different terms, language and narratives are promoted by organisations with different perspectives on the problem. Merging these two already contentious subjects is an unenviable communications challenge.
Whether through confusion and misunderstanding about technical terms, or through the adoption of language and approaches that do not ‘map over’ well to a different audience, there is a significant danger that campaigns on climate change and migration could backfire.
For organisations seeking urgent action to prevent dangerous climate change, climate-induced migration is an important method of humanising an often very de-humanised issue. The more the climate changes, the greater the impact on human populations will be. However, attributing a particular episode of migration to climate change suffers from the same problems as attributing extreme weather events to climate change.
The risk is that without a pro-active approach, climate change and migration will become yet another polarised debate, dominated by those whose political interests conflict with protecting human rights in developing countries and taking meaningful action on climate change.”
- Communicating about Climate Change and Migration – issues and challenges
- The existing communications landscape
- Five basic principles for effective communication about climate change and migration
- Key messages and core principles of the UKCCMC
- Migration Glossary