Photo: Sukant Sharma, Unsplash

CLIMIG - A New Interdisciplinary Framework for Studying the Relation between Climate Change and Migration

Research project
Active research
Project period
2022 - 2028
Project owner
School of Global Studies

Short description

The project aims to establish a bold interdisciplinary research environment comprising the natural and social sciences to examine how climate change affects migration processes in three of the world’s most populated mountain areas: the Ethiopian highlands, the Andes, and the Himalaya. This will be done by using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods ranging from in-depth ethnographic fieldwork to non-linear climate modelling methods. The project will generate solid scientific knowledge on a crucial but less understood aspect of the relation between climate change and migration, i.e., how different drivers interact in complex constellations, and, in specific contexts, what makes certain drivers more decisive. For this purpose, a novel analytical framework will be constructed, and tested.



As one of the most vulnerable habitats to climate change, mountain regions showcase how rapid environmental change generates natural disasters, creates social tensions and challenges people’s livelihoods, often driving them to migrate. Climate migration has emerged as a political hot potato and a source of anxiety over sharing resources, mobility induced disruptions to receiving societies, and vulnerability concerns for those who do move, particularly given the uncertainties of climate change. Urgent research is needed that can generate new data and analytical frameworks capable of addressing these anxieties. This program brings together a core group of ten scientists from climatology, human geography, human ecology, international relations and social anthropology to think together about how to re-conceptualize climate migration. In collaboration with the Dept. of Earth Sciences at the University of Gothenburg (UGOT), the program will be based at the School of Global Studies (SGS), UGOT, which hosts the Centre on Global Migration (CGM) as a platform to engage a group of junior and senior scholars from both the Global North and South in an innovative interdisciplinary research environment.

While climate-driven migration has received the attention of scholars worldwide, few attempts have been made to employ a truly interdisciplinary approach. This program goes beyond previous research by exploring how climate intersects with other drivers to create a complex migration dynamic. A new analytical framework will be developed to capture the complexities of social, political, and ecological drivers, their interactions, and variations across regions and scales of governance, allowing us to contextualize them environmentally, politically, socially and culturally, and to quantify their relative effect. The approach is multi-scalar: migration drivers originate at scales beyond the locality, just as climate and mobility justice concerns are not contained to the locations and populations who move. Our research will attend to both the complexities of these dynamics and seek to identify their regularities in order to devise a new, interdisciplinary approach to the climate-migration nexus. To make the framework useful to a global audience of stakeholders, the program works creatively with quantitative data on both climate and migration, and links them to qualitative data that capture the realities of migration in the face of environmental upheaval. The approach allows us to service basic science needs of policy makers while also tapping into emotive storytelling capable of translating complex academic ideas to broad audiences.

Research aims

The aims of the program are threefold:

  1. To account for climate change as both a context for and a driver of migration within cutting edge theories of migration;
  2. To rethink the relation between different drivers of climate migration to better account for empirically observed human mobility patterns;
  3. To integrate complex biophysical and social political data together in innovative ways by designing an analytical framework that tests particular constellations of drivers, including quantification of their relative importance.

Research Questions

  1. What forms of migration exist in rural Ethiopia, Peru/Bolivia and Nepal and how have these changed during the last 30 years?
  2. How does climate change affect the migration dynamics, especially people’s propensity to migrate?
  3. How does climate change intersect with other migration drivers to lead to migration?
  4. How can in-depth local level social political data best inform the development of fine-grained regional climate models?


Climate modelling, network mapping, surveys, interviews, participant observation, Accountability, Participation and Adaptive Capacity (IAPA) governance index.

The two-day kick-off workshop of the CLIMIG project took place at the School of Global Studies from 31 October to 1 November, 2022.
Photo: Ummee Saila