Funding source: (former) School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management

Climate change is expected to trigger substantial migration flows this century. An estimated 250 million people will move from settlements decimated by drought and other severe climatic events to less vulnerable regions and cities.

Governments will need a better understanding of the spatial and temporal dimensions of climate change-induced migration if they are to implement sustainable strategies for managing its impact on local economies, infrastructure and societies.

UQ researchers are tracking human spatial mobility in drought stricken areas of Northeast Brazil to understand the influence of climate on the livelihoods of poor households. The project explores how the timing, frequency and patterns of migration shift in response to environmental stressors. 

The research team has integrated census and field-based data to develop an innovative method for capturing these characteristics of people movement and showing how human mobility shifts over time in response to climate change.

Coupled with household questionnaires and participant observation, the new technique is providing rich data on the mobility-environment nexus at the regional level. The State of Ceara in semi-arid North-East Brazil was the first to benefit from this research in early 2014.

The study’s outcomes will also provide important insights for other governments and humanitarian organisations responsible for the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change-induced migration.