This chapter contextualizes the phenomenon of climate change-related migrations and illustrates the conceptual framework underpinning this book. Science suggests that without successful global climate policies, massive human suffering and conflict, triggering uncontrolled migration in different parts of the world, is possible, if not (very) probable. Interdependence is the key concept that underpins the book. It entails that no single actor can be considered as a stand-alone, independent unit. Ecological studies broadly rely on this principle to explain the functioning of ecosystems. This chapter investigates the links between ecosystem services, human well-being, and migration patterns. Following these trends, it argues that social sciences and international law too should refer to interdependence as a key guiding principle, and that it is sound today to talk of “international interdependence law”.
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See, ex multis: McAdam (Ed.) (2010). Climate Change and Displacement, Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford: Hart Publishing. See also Hugo (1995). Environmental Concerns and International Migration. International Migration Review, p. 105; EACH-FOR (2009). Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios, Synthesis Report. http://rosamartinez.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Migraciones-y-Cambio-Climatico_EACHFOR.pdf. Accessed 2 September 2018; Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the Twenty-First Century (2011). Chairperson’s Summary (para. 4). https://www.unhcr.org/4ea969729.pdf. Accessed 12 January 2020. With regard to legal studies only, see ex multis: Ntekangi (2014). Vers un droit international des réfugiés écologiques. Kinshasa: L’Harmattan; McAdam (2012). Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Kälin & Schrepfer (2012). Protecting People Crossing Borders in The Context of Climate Change: Normative Gaps and Possible Approaches. UNHCR Legal and Protection Research Series, PPLA/2012/01. https://www.unhcr.org/4f33f1729.pdf. Accessed 12 December 2016; Westra (2009). Environmental Justice and the Rights of Ecological Refugees. London: Earthscan; Xing-Yin Ni (2015). A Nation Going Under: Legal Protection for “Climate Change Refugees”. Boston College International & Comparative Law Review, 2, pp. 329 ff.
“It is expected that climate change in the 21st century will lead to an increase in the movement of people (medium evidence, high agreement)”. IPCC (2014). Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Work of Working Group II of the Fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 20. See on the same topic but from another perspective also Bergoglio (2015). Lettera enciclica – Laudato si’ – del Santo Padre Francesco sulla cura della casa comune. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 23: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developingcountries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemicservices such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded”.
A dissipative structure (or dissipative system) is a thermodynamically open system that works in a state far from thermodynamic equilibrium, exchanging energy, matter, and/or entropy with the environment. Examples of dissipative structures include phenomena such as cyclones and, on a larger and more complex scale, ecosystems and life forms.
See in this regard: Picone (2013). Comunità Internazionale ed Obblighi Erga Omnes. Naples: Jovene Editore, p. 16. See also: Giuliano, Scovazzi & Treves (1983). Diritto internazionale. Vol. 2: Gli aspetti giuridici della coesistenza degli Stati. Milan: Giuffré.
It is sobering to recall that in the twentieth century alone the human population has quadrupled, while the world economy and industrial production have increased, respectively, by 14 and 40 times. See in this regard, ex multis: McNeill (2010). Du Nouveau sous le Soleil: histoire de l’environnement mondial au XXe siècle. Seyssel: Champ Vallon, p. 44.
The Holocene, the last and current geological era, started between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago after the end of the last ice age. The Holocene has allowed, also for its unusual climatic stability, an enormous human development, with the settlement of sedentary human societies and agriculture. For more information, see: Incropera (2016). Climate Change: A Wicked Problem, Chapter 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Washington, DC: Island Press. See also: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2016). Managing Ecosystems in the Context of Climate Change Mitigation: A Review of Current Knowledge and Recommendations to Support Ecosystem-Based Mitigation Actions That Look Beyond Terrestrial forests. CBD Technical Series No. 86. https://www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-86-en.pdf. Accessed 12 May 2019.
The term biogeochemical cycle indicates the circulation of chemical elements between living and non-living components. Since this cycle involves both ecosystems and geological processes (water movement, erosion, etc.) and chemicals, the resulting cycles are called biogeochemical.