Policy Brief Series Issue 1 | Vol. 5: Marshallese perspectives on migration in the context of climate change

Kees van der Geest, Maxine Burkett, Juno Fitzpatrick, Mark Stege, Brittany Wheeler
Date Published: 
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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Marshall Islands is a nation of widely dispersed, low-lying coral atolls and islands, with approximately 70 mi2 of land area scattered across 750,000 mi2 of ocean (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2015). Average elevation for the Marshall Islands is approximately 2 m. above mean sea level, and many islands and atolls are lower (Owen et al., 2016). As climate change causes sea levels to rise and weather patterns to shift, the Marshall Islands face flooding, heat stress and drought that damages agriculture, livelihoods, homes and infrastructure (Keener et al., 2012; Marra et al., 2017).

When the frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards increases, residents may have to make the difficult choice of whether to leave their home islands in the hope of a more stable future. Marshallese migrants move within the country to larger islands or to the United States of America where the Compact of Free Association allows them to live and work under a special status (Graham, 2008; McElfish, 2016). However, push and pull factors triggering human migration are complex and often intertwined, making it difficult to pinpoint and address specific causes (The Government Office for Science, 2011).

Number of Pages: 12
ISSN: 2410-4930
Year: 2019