Sussex academic helps launch ‘unique’ migration report

University of Sussex academic Professor Richard Black will help today (Thursday 20 October) to launch a major new international report that he describes as "unique" in its approach to migration in an era of climate change.

The report, published by Foresight, the UK Government Office for Science, highlights the findings of the Migration and Global Environmental Change project, an extensive two-year study. The project has involved 350 experts in over 30 countries.

It reveals that the major challenges associated with migration and environmental change have been underestimated.

Professor Black, chair of the project's Lead Expert Group, who is Head of the School of Global Studies and Professor of Geography at the University of Sussex, says: "This report is unique in both its substantial evidence base and in its global approach, and will provide policy makers and others in the environment and development fields with a firm basis upon which to tackle the migration challenges of the future."

The report's main findings are that:

  • Millions will be 'trapped' in vulnerable areas and unable to move, particularly in low-income countries. Migration is costly, and with environmental conditions such as drought and flooding eroding people's livelihoods, migration - particularly over long distances - may be less possible in many situations. This creates high risk conditions.
  • People will increasingly migrate towards environmentally vulnerable areas. Rural to urban migration is set to continue, but many cities in the developing world are already failing their citizens with flooding, water shortages and inadequate housing. Preliminary estimates show that up to 192 million more people will be living in urban coastal floodplains in Africa and Asia by 2060, through both natural population growth and rural-urban migration.
  • However, migration can transform people's ability to cope with environmental change, opening up new sources of income which help them become stronger and more resilient. For instance, 2009 remittances to low income countries were at $307 billion, nearly 3 times the value of overseas development aid. These kinds of income flows may actually make it possible for households, particularly in low income countries, to stay in situ for longer.

International adaptation and development policies will be better able to deliver if they take account of the links between global environmental change and migration, as well as recognise that migration can be part of the solution, says the report. It also advocates long-term urban planning that takes into account critical issues such as water availability, more frequent hazards and the well-being of new migrants, who are often the most vulnerable.

Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Foresight programme, who presented the report at says: "It is essential to do all we can to both address environmental change and make sure people are as resilient as possible in the face of hazards. This means recognising the role migration can play in helping people cope. For policy makers - particularly those making decisions on climate adaptation - these findings will be critical."

Notes for Editors

Professor Richard Black is quoted in top BBC story by Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh: Climate change migration warning issued through report

  1. Download the full report at
  2. Foresight is in the Government Office for Science (GO-Science). GO-Science supports the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser in ensuring that the Government has access to, and uses, the best science and engineering advice. It is located within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
  3. The UK Government's Foresight Programme helps Government think systematically about the future. Foresight uses the latest scientific and other evidence to provide advice for policymakers in addressing future challenges.
  4. Further details about the project can be found on the Foresight website
  5. For more information, or to request an interview please contact or ring 020 7215 6577.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Thursday, 20 October 2011