Climate Migration – How Can Societies and Countries Prepare?

Our climate is changing around the globe, and it is happening more rapidly, visibly and alarmingly. The past five years were worldwide the hottest years since record-keeping began (Umweltbundesamt 2019) and weather patterns have been thrown off in many places around the world. Extreme weather conditions like droughts, flooding, windstorms as well as earthquakes and landslides are posing great threats to society, especially in countries of the global South. The resulting dramatic consequences are analyzed in the current ifo project SLICE ( which aims at understanding underlying mechanisms in order to build resilience against climate change-induced climate extremes.

Given these precarious circumstances, the World Bank (2018) predicts 140 Million and Greenpeace (2014) 200 Million “climate refugees” until 2050. A large proportion of climate refugees will migrate from the southern to the northern hemisphere, since living conditions in the northern hemisphere, for example in Europe, are less affected by global warming than countries on the southern hemisphere (The Economist 2018). Although precise forecasts are complex and specific numbers must be treated with caution, experts agree that climate change will pose a grave threat and require immediate global action.

Furthermore, climate migrants are unlikely to eventually return to their country of origin, since the consequences of climate change are not expected to improve. This is in stark contrast to conflict refugees (migrants leaving their home country due to war and danger of persecution) who often return home once the situation improves. This prospect makes it a necessity to integrate climate migrants successfully in the long term.

Successful integration is a multidimensional concept and both societies, as well as countries and their institutions, play a central role in facilitating it. While societies shape the culture and mindset of welcoming migrants, it is the responsibility of countries and their institutions to provide a stimulating legal framework for the integration of migrants.



  • How can societies prepare for the wave of climate migrants coming to Germany and Europe? What can we do as a society to make the expected scenario known and to raise awareness about climate migration? How can we establish a positive and optimistic “welcome culture” that successfully integrates migrants into our society and economy? How can we strengthen the European identity and help those affected, rather than drifting further into negative thinking and political extremes?
  • How can countries and their institutions prepare for the impending wave of climate migrants? How can the assignment of migrants across Europe be better managed? During the refugee crisis of 2015, the assignment of refugees to certain European countries caused many struggles. Since then, many proposals have been created – how do these differ from your ideas? What could a fair distribution system look like? What incentives must be created, such that the proposal is positively received by all EU countries as well as local societies? Evaluate existing frameworks and simplify them, to create an optimized bottom-up approach.


Umweltbundesamt (2019),

Economist (2018),

Effects of Climate Change:


The Concept of “Climate Migration” and “Climate Refugee”:

Climate Migration (Expectations and Predictions):

Integration of Migrants – Important Aspects and Challenges:

Welcome Culture:

Proposals for EU-Refugee Distribution:



Policy Proposals:

Scientific Partner:

Supporting researchers:

Wolfgang Auer
Tanja Stitteneder
Yvonne Giesing