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Migration and Climate Change in Oceania

Part of the Global Migration Issues book series (IOMS,volume 2)

Abstract

Two characteristics of the Pacific Islands region (Oceania) are high levels of exposure to environmental extremes and a long tradition of population mobility. Accordingly there are a number of examples of community relocation following natural disasters. Small island developing states have been identified as likely to have high levels of exposure to the effects of climate change. In Oceania these effects may include sea-level rise, increased incidence and intensity of floods and droughts, coral degradation, increased intensity of tropical cyclones, and changes in the distribution of disease vectors. It is possible that some locations, especially atolls, coasts (where the great majority now live), deltas and river flood plains may become uninhabitable.

There is a need to distinguish community relocation from individual and household migration. There have only been three international instances of the former and in only one case was an entire island population relocated. Community relocation is much more common at the local level and occasionally follows tropical cyclones and associated storm surge. If places become uninhabitable such relocation may be unavoidable, and countries composed only of atolls may require international migration. It is much more difficult to determine the reasons for individual and household migration but loss of livelihoods through environmental degradation may be a significant factor. Such migration may be considered as a rational climate change adaptation where reductions in livelihoods may be offset at the place of origin although there may be significant implications for the structure of remaining small populations. In this chapter we examine several instances of internal relocation and the three ‘international’ cases that occurred during the colonial era.

Keywords

  • Tropical Cyclone
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Solomon Island
  • Climate Change Effect
  • South Pacific Convergence Zone

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Fig. 8.1
Fig. 8.2
Fig. 8.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    A useful overview of issues relating to Australia’s population, including internal migration trends, recent immigration and the impact of climate change on the different regions of the country, can be found in Pincus and Hugo (2012). Migration between New Zealand and Australia is a prominent component of New Zealand’s international migration system, as are flows between island countries in the eastern and central Pacific and New Zealand. These connections, together with long-standing flows between Europe and New Zealand, and the more recent flows from countries in the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, are examined in Spoonley and Bedford (2012). While successive governments in both New Zealand and Australia have encouraged immigration since the late nineteenth century, the two countries also restricted severely immigration from countries in Asia until the early 1970s (Australia) and mid-1980s (New Zealand). Jupp (2007) and McKinnon (1996) provide useful historical accounts of immigration policies in the two countries, while Bedford and Hugo (2012) deal more specifically with trends in and prospects for migration between the Pacific Islands and Australia and New Zealand.

  2. 2.

    There is an extensive literature on pre-colonial settlement in Pacific societies. Brookfield with Hart’s (1971) detailed geographical interpretation of the islands in the western Pacific remains an authoritative analysis of people and places in the larger islands of the Pacific.

  3. 3.

    There are two convergence zones in the Pacific where moisture laden trade winds meet – they are characterised by a zone of cloudiness and increased rainfall. These are the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ).

  4. 4.

    Climate change has often been linked to issues of ‘national security’. However we use the term ‘security’ for want of another term that excludes the state and military aspects often associated with notions of security (e.g. Barnett 2001). We hope that these concerns (relating to larger scale systems of government) can be somewhat overcome by using the modifier community. “Community security” refers here to the ability of a community to have sustainable livelihoods, a place on which to be located and a healthy environment.

  5. 5.

    It may be anticipated that climate extremes may result in forced or voluntary evacuation, but following such events resettlement often takes place. Where the need for temporary evacuation occurs with increasing frequency some communities may decide that relocation or migration is necessary.

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Campbell, J., Bedford, R., Bedford, R. (2014). Migration and Climate Change in Oceania. In: Piguet, E., Laczko, F. (eds) People on the Move in a Changing Climate. Global Migration Issues, vol 2. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6985-4_8

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