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Climate Migration – topos 123

Theresa Ramisch

Our current topos-magazine deals with the critical phenomenon “climate migration”: What describes it exactly, when does it happen and what can be done about it?

Cover photo: Patrick Hendry




The topic of climate migration is omnipresent. It is about nothing less than saving our planet and thus our livelihoods. It is often forgotten that this basis of life has already been destroyed for millions of people. These people set out in search of a new future and often end up in the world’s major cities. How are these cities dealing with the increasing number of climate refugees? Are there working concepts to develop new living spaces for these refugees in the already overcrowded big cities? Our topos magazine 123 deals with the critical phenomenon “climate migration”.

Tuvalu’s virtual meta verse

Two years ago, the island nation of Tuvalu attracted global attention. At COP 26 in Glasgow its foreign secretary, Simon Kofe, gave a speech in knee-deep seawater and highlighted like this the dramatic situation in his country. It is most likely that within the next 50 to 100 years, the Pacific Island State will become uninhabitable and disappear as a result of climate change. The country has been classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ to climate change by the United Nations Development Programme. Tuvalu struggles with five millimetres per year sea level rise, rising temperatures, saltwater intrusion, storm surges, tidal and wave driven flooding, and costal erosion on its nine coral atolls and islands, the highest of which rises about 15 feet above sea level. In addition, the frequency of cyclones and droughts is expected to increase in the coming years.

The world’s first digital climate migrants

At COP 27 in 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Simon Kofe again ventured a little media stunt. In a speech in a digital replica of Te Afualiku, Tuvalu’s smallest island, Simon Kofe unveiled that Tuvalu has started to move the island to the so-called meta verse. If they want to continue to show Tuvalu’s children and grandchildren their homeland in the future, they have no choice, Kofe says in the video, but to build a digital twin of of their home. Like this, the people of Tuvalu will become the world’s first digital nation (as Kofe states), but also the world’s first digital climate migrants.

Climate migration: Stay or go?

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the UN Refugee Agency reported that in 2021, 23.7 million people were forced to leave their homes due to natural events such as continual rainfall, prolonged droughts, heat waves, and storms, both short- and long-term. 80 percent of these refugees come from poor, crisis-stricken countries – including Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar (the five countries from which most refugees come worldwide). These countries only have few to no resources to prevent or mitigate the effects. At least Tuvalu has the resources to preserve their islands virtually.

In contrast to the Tuvalu’s, most climate refugees have the possibility to remain in their own countries – but often under very difficult conditions. Those, who have to leave their home countries, present greater challenges to host countries such as Canada , Germany, Sweden or the United States of America, also because the legal status of climate refugees remains unclear.

Contents of topos 123

In this special topos about climate migration, we venture into the complex question of how countries, cities and societies should deal with the challenges of increasing climate migration. We look at the countries with the greatest challenges in climate migration, have made contact with the world’s largest refugee camp and take stock of the handling in the host countries. Climate change threatens millions of lives. At the same time, our world and especially its industrialized nations are not yet able to take the necessary steps to sustainably support endangered and weakened nations. As Sam Valentine’s article (pp. 80-84) on the situation in the U.S. shows – this is because the economic powers of this world are barely getting their own climate problems under control.

From extreme drought to rising sea levels: Climate change is multi-faceted. In this topos, we discuss how society can deal with the increase of climate migration worldwide.

Get the topos 123 – Climate Migration – here.

In the previous topos 122, we dealt with work-life-balance. But how and where can this work-life balance really be created and lived? Find approaches to the answers in the editorial of topos 122 – “work-life-balance”.

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