Does climate change influence people’s migration decisions in Maldives?
Climatic Change, Springer
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The influence of climate change and perceptions of it on people’s migration decisions has received significant prominence, especially for people living on low-lying islands. To contribute to this literature, this paper uses Maldives as a case study for exploring the research question: How does climate change influence or not influence people’s migration decisions in Maldives? Previous work tends to start from a disciplinary climate change perspective, while this study combines migration, mobility, and island studies perspectives, within which climate change sits. As well, rather than focusing on the area around the capital, Malé, as with many previous studies, the 113 interviews here were conducted in eight islands across three atolls. The method was qualitative, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews using purposive sampling of ordinary people. Contrary to a view of islanders preparing to flee their islands as “climate change refugees”, the interviewees provided nuanced and varied responses. They rarely identified the potential of future impacts due to climate change as influencing their migration-related decisions. When migration was considered, it was chiefly internal movement seeking a better standard of living via improved services, better living conditions, and more job opportunities. If migration related to potential climate change impacts might happen, then it was assumed to be in the future for decisions then. This lack of influence of climate change-related perceptions on Maldivians’ migration decisions fits well within island mobilities studies, from which climate change perspectives could adopt wider contexts.