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The politics of causal claims: the case of environmental migration

Abstract

This article explores the effects of causal claims in world politics. It does so by examining international debates on environmental migration. In these debates, social and natural scientific knowledge are central to the linkage of ‘environment’ and ‘migration’. Yet, despite almost all parties to the debate acknowledging causality to be complex and ambiguous, institutional agreements have proceeded as though there was a common understanding of the causal relationships between the environment and migration. To explain this apparent paradox, this article examines the use and effect of causal claims within the period between 2007 and 2010 when the issue first emerged as the subject of international institutional debate. Theoretically, the article integrates literature on epistemic communities and the strategic deployment of discourse to develop a conceptual framework for thinking about the role of causal claims. Empirically, it looks at both the general institutional debate on the issue and the specific negotiation of paragraph 14(f) of the Cancún Adaptation Framework (CAF), the first international agreement on the issue. It argues that examining environmental migration has wider analytical relevance for understanding the political economy of causal knowledge.

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List of interviews

  1. Jean-François Durieux (personal interview by author, 30 April, 2012).

  2. François Gemenne (personal interview by author, 30 April, 2012).

  3. Vikram Kolmannskog (personal interview by author, 23 April, 2012).

  4. Koko Warner (personal interview by author, 11 April, 2012)

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Correspondence to Alexander Betts.

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Betts, A., Pilath, A. The politics of causal claims: the case of environmental migration. J Int Relat Dev 20, 782–804 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-016-0003-y

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Keywords

  • causality
  • displacement
  • environment
  • epistemic communities
  • knowledge
  • migration