Population and Environment

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 357–383 | Cite as

The uneven geography of research on “environmental migration”

  • Etienne Piguet
  • Raoul Kaenzig
  • Jérémie Guélat
Original Paper


Climate change and environmental hazards affect the entire world, but their interactions with—and consequences on—human migration are unevenly distributed geographically. Research on climate and migration have their own geographies which do not necessarily coincide. This paper critically confronts these two geographies by presenting the first detailed mapping of research in the field of environmentally induced migration. After a brief review of the geography of research on climate change, the paper presents an overview of nearly 50 years of case studies on the basis of CliMig, a bibliographic database of 1193 scientific papers and books on climate/environmental change and migration, among them 463 empirical case studies. We analyze the locations of these case studies, the academic affiliations of their researchers, and the origin of their funding. Mapping the locations of case studies worldwide points toward blind spots in the research and identifies “overstudied” areas. We describe the methodologies used in the studies and present a typology of environmental hazards. Our results show that research on environmental migration is mainly done in countries of the Global South, whereas climate science research in general is focused on countries of the Global North. We contend that the peculiar geography of environmental migration cannot be explained solely by the uneven vulnerability of southern populations to the environment. It must also be understood through the lens of post-colonial and securitization studies as the result of a framing of “environmental refugees” (and refugees in general) as an intrinsically “southern problem” and as a security risk for the North. This paper is an original contribution to the literature on the North-South divide in scientific research and will help to outline future directions of investigation.


Environmental migration Geography of science Climate change Bibliometric analysis Spatial scientometrics 



We would like to thank Suzy Blondin, Loïc Bruening, Christine Diacon, and Aronne Watkins for their help in maintaining the CliMig database.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of GeographyUniversity of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland

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