Population and Environment

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 480–503 | Cite as

Culture, climate change and mobility decisions in Pacific Small Island Developing States

  • Robert OakesEmail author
Original Paper


The Pacific Small Island Developing States are often considered on the frontline of climate change due to high levels of exposure to climate-related hazards and limited adaptive capacity to respond. In this context, Pacific Islanders may be displaced, or choose to migrate to escape risk and find more secure livelihoods. On the other hand, Pacific political and community leaders stress that mobility can be a threat to sovereignty and culture and should only be considered as a last resort. This paper adopts a cultural ecology framing to gain a greater understanding of these contested local discourses on climate change and human mobility in Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru through the use of the Q method. The results reveal a range of shared subjective understandings of climate change and human mobility which show that reasons for, and perceived outcomes of moving are inextricably linked. These subjective understandings highlight that culture, and in particular how Islanders relate to land and religion can influence decision-making, promoting or hindering mobility. The findings therefore support the need for further engagement with communities to recognise and validate their positions on climate change and human mobility to facilitate the planning and implementation of effective policy.


Migration climate Pacific SIDS culture Q method 


Compliance with ethical standards

All experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)BonnGermany

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