Is Climate Change, Migration and Health Related to Each Other?

Climate change, recently the climate crisis has been highlighted due to the impacts of climate change and air emissions on health and human wellbeing. The consequences are not only facing the health and wellbeing, but also facing the ecological, political, and societal crises. Climate change only made its way into the world’s focus in the early 2000s, even though scientists knew about it as early as the 1980s. Such a global threat is affecting the global in different ways and mechanisms. It is important to understand these ways and mechanisms because these will affect the human’s behaver and decision making in different ways. According to Watts, Adger, Agnolucci, Blackstock, Byass, and Cai, (2015), when temperature increases by global warming, the global health will be affected by direct and indirect mechanisms, which will interact with the social dynamics to produce the health outcomes. That means the direct risks will include increased heat stress, floods, and drought, as well as increased frequency of intense storms. The indirect risks will mediate through changes in the biosphere which can also lead to negative health effects.


Climate change can be translated to many forms of environmental and health degradations including, rising sea levels, hurricanes, water scarcity, reduced rainfall in drylands, and all these could be later translated to health issues and migration. All these effects will have an impact on global health, and global patterns of migration in multiple ways. The effects will have different pathways and mechanisms, and all these pathways and mechanisms will contribute to defining human health and behavior, as well as decision making. Usually, the extreme rainfall events translate into floods. Furthermore, the regions of large population growth are most exposed to the flood risk, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The same storm and floods could affect also the migration pattern in indirect ways, for example when the water quality is degreasing by the storm and floods, then, infection disease will be spreading and that may lead to emigration. Also, when land use is changing by floods and when more ecological changes occur, then all these could lead to emigration either in an indirect way or by the health impact that will happen by the social dynamics, which could be affected by direct and indirect ways. The social dynamics are such: poor health status, socioeconomic status, and public health infrastructure. The health impact may look like allergies, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, injures, poisoning, undernutrition, mental illness, and infectious disease. (Watts et al. 2015); (Ridde, Benmarhnia, Bonnet, Bottger, Cloos, & Dagenais, 2019).


Mahmooei, and Parris (2012), stated that Bangladesh is one of the most countries which is vulnerable to climate change impacts such as extreme weather events. Also, as a result of climate change in Bangladesh, the migration dynamics will be increased in the coming years. Furthermore, Watts et al. (2015) stated that the risks related to water shortages and flood are involving large populations, the author warned that “an additional 50 million people and 30 000 km² of land could be affected by coastal storm surges in 2100, with attendant risks of direct deaths and of infectious diseases” (P. 1873). This essay will identify and demonstrates more knowledge and examples about the mechanisms and pathways of the effect of climate change on health and migration as well as how these are related to each other.


Research question

Is climate change, migration and health are related to each other?


The mechanisms and pathways

First, it is important to demonstrate the first category of air emissions that are contributing to global climate change, to understand the case. The air emissions are releasing gases, such Nitrous Oxide with the formula (N₂O), this is an oxide of nitrogen. Also, a well-known gas with his damage to the ozone layer called hydrochlorofluorocarbons with the formula (HFC). As well as the Hydrocarbon with the formula (CH₄) and Carbon Dioxide with the formula (CO2). All these gases are contributing to global climate change by increasing the temperature, heatwaves, and extreme weather, as well as by precipitation variation. The direct effects of climate change are including increased heat stress, floods, drought, and increased frequency of intense storms (Watts et al. 2015).


The direct effect of climate change on health are mediated by frequency, intensity, and duration. When these consequences increase, then the migration will also increase. There has been evidence, that people have migrated to other places. According to UNHCR, (2014); WHO, (2019) Over 1 billion migrants worldwide have emigrated, 258 million international, and 763 million internal. That could be a sign of climate change, because for instance, the storms and floods, will not only lead to health-related issues, such as mental health problems, poor health, shortage in food, and clean water but also will lead to displacement and migration. That because when people are losing their houses or farms, due same floods, and storms, then, they will be forced to emigrate to another place to have a safer environment and houses as well as food availability. Watts et al. (2015) stated that risks related to water shortages and flood are involving large populations. The author warned that “an additional 50 million people and 30 000 km² of land could be affected by coastal storm surges in 2100, with attendant risks of direct deaths and infectious diseases” (P. 1873).


That could be true, for example, when drought and water scarcity dominate the region and when extreme weather events happen and when land degradation and desertification occur, and when the sea levels are rising. Then, as a result, food scarcity will occur, and emigration will increase. People will search for new resources. Also, armed conflicts will increase, which also will lead to migration and mental health problems such as traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and suicides as well as health inequity (Michael 2013); (Cunsolo & Ellis 2018).


What matters in such cases, is the population vulnerability to the exposure, sensitivity, adaption, and capacity, as well as the prespecified preventative policies that should be addressed by the states, because that will moderate and modify the outcome. In these cases, does gender and age differences matter? Who is more sensitive to climate change? Who can adapt to climate change? Regarding gender and floods related deaths. The gender inequality could interact with the exposure differently. For instance, according to Watts et al. (2015), in high-income countries, flood-related deaths are more common in the male population, while in low-income countries, women and girls are disproportionately affected.


The question here: Is that true? According to UNHCR, (2014); WHO, (2019), almost half of all international migrants are women and girls. So, women and girls are more affected by disasters, especially in low-income countries. Nevertheless, women in low-income countries have fewer resources and power than men, they tend to emigrate. That means the women can’t tolerate the disasters in low-income countries. That’s why they will have one option to choose between. Either to choose death or emigration. In high-income countries the gender inequality is less, that’s why women can survive because women might have resources and power to survive during the disasters. For example, if the floods come and the women have a car, she can run with her children fast from the place. While in low-income countries when a woman has no car, she can’t run away from the floods. What is proving this example, is that it has been stated, that the risks will affect mostly poor and marginalized groups, as well as people with disabilities, elderly, and young children (Watts et al. 2015); (Watts, Amann, Ayeb-Karlsson, Belesova, Bouley, Boykoff, 2018); (UNHCR, 2014); (WHO, 2019).


According to Watts et al. (2015), there is no evidence that climate change has increased the risk of violence, civil conflict, or war between states. That could be justified for their wars and reasons for concern. But when the climate change leads to conflict, then the conflict will lead to emigration and health inequity, because when drought and water scarcity, land degradation and desertification occur, then that may lead to food scarcity and then to emigration, because people will search for new resources. People who couldn’t emigrate may start armed conflicts or long-term conflict, while that may increase the mental health problem, such as traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety (Michael 2013); (Cunsolo & Ellis 2018).


According to WHO (2019), the increase in temperature and the change in rainfall patterns indicate an increased risk for borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease. Usually, when such a disaster happens, people tend to run or emigrate from the region that has been infected. That because when transmission infection disease covers a region, that may affect the health status and limit mobility. These effects will lead also to many health effects for example when the temperature will rise, and the weather gets extreme and borne disease such as malaria occurred an x person emigrated from the infected region to another country. The X person will be an immigrant in x country, there he or she may be exposed to racism, stigma, and discrimination or exacerbates marginalization, disempowerment, or social exclusion. Then the immigrant x will have negative health effects and then it will be related to mortality and morbidity. (Grove & Zwi, 2006); (Viruell-Fuentes, Miranda, & Abdulrahim, 2012).


Furthermore, Watts et al. (2015), stated that when the sea level rises due to climate change. That can lead to regional changes and loss in biodiversity. That can threaten the population’s health through air pollution, disease, food insecurity, and displacement. Why sea level matter? Often, the coastal communities are suffering more from coastal flood risk, and usually, people tend to live with high density in coastal areas. For instance, in the United States, around 40 percent of the population lives in high population-density coastal areas and any coastal flood will threaten the population’s life and that may cause inboard or outboard migration. Lindsey (2019).


Not only the storms, floods, drought, and heat will affect global health, and global patterns of migration, but also the air emissions that cause pollution. According to CCAC. (2018). world health organization stated that around 90% of the world population breathes polluted air. Moreover, indoor and outdoor air pollution causes death to around 7 million people per year. Most of them are from low- and middle-income countries. If we considered well, then we would understand that the air emission is more dangerous for global health than only the effect of storms, floods, drought, and heat.

climate change, migration, social science, global health,

Demonstrating the second category of the air emissions that are lowering the local air quality. The air emissions are releasing many dangerous particulates, compounds, and gases such Sulphur Dioxide with formula (SO₂) and Ozone with formula (O3) as well as Nitrogen Dioxide with formula (NO2) and some particulates such as PM10 and PM2.5. Even some chemical compounds such Benzene with the formula (C₆H₆). The exposure to these, either outdoor air or indoor air may cause cardiorespiratory disease, acute respiratory infection, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, stroke, and mental health problem (Watts et al. 2015); (National Pollutant Inventory, 2019).


This category of gases is very dangerous to human been. The awareness has already been in many agencies in different countries for example, in United States the environmental protection agency (2019) stated that (O3) can damage the lungs, cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, inflammation of lung tissue, susceptibility to respiratory infection and throat irritation. Also, the agency for toxic substances and disease registry (2015) stated that the effect of Benzene is determined by the length of time of the exposure and by the amount. A study conducted on workers employed in industries, there they have been exposed to Benzene in workplace air for long term. The result indicated that the exposure to very high levels of benzene in air for 10 minutes can result to death. The exposure to lower levels of benzene in air for 10 minutes can result to drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, tremors, confusion, headaches, and unconsciousness. Even they stated that eating foods or drinking liquids containing high levels of Benzene can result to irritation of the stomach, vomiting, dizziness, convulsions, sleepiness, rapid heart rate, coma, and death. Moreover, if Benzene meet the eyes it may cause general irritation and damage to the cornea.


Benzene can cause many problems in the blood. For instance, People who breathe benzene for long periods may experience some harmful effects in the tissues that form blood cells. Mostly in the bone marrow and as a result that could disrupt the normal blood production and after that anemia may occur. Furthermore, the long-term exposure can cause Leukemia. Leukemia is a condition when the blood forming organs are defected by cancer. Even the excessive exposure may harm the immune system, which could increase the risk for infection and in most cases can lower the body’s defence against cancer. The exposure to Benzene can affect the fertility among women. the study has shown that women who were breathing high levels of Benzene had irregular menstrual periods. Also, Benzene affect the prenatal development such delaying the bone formation and damaging the bone marrow of the fetus which can result in low birthweight (Agency for toxic substances & disease registry, 2015).


Even the government in Australia has published on her website in the department of the environment and energy, that the national pollutant inventory (2019) stated that, the air emissions will be diffused by airborne particles. The air will carry particulate from Industry sources such as particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5. These particulates can be drawn deep into the lungs through nose or mouth. Recent epidemiological research suggests that there are many negative health effects from these particulates include: fibrosis, cancer, irritation of mucous membranes, toxic effects by absorption of the toxic material into the blood and increased respiratory symptoms, aggravation of asthma and premature death.


Finally, last but not least, the third category is also contributing to climate change. For instance, when the solid discharge such as radioactive materials and water, as well as ash and sulphur affect an area then, these will lead to local contamination which can have different negative health effects, such as acute radiation sickness, cancer, drowning, physical injury and mental health problem, which later also could lead to emigration (Watts et al. 2015).



Climate change, health and migration are related to each other and the relation depends on the intensity and the duration of the climate change. As well as the prespecified preventative policies and population vulnerability to the exposure. Climate change can be translated to many forms of risks and that will play a big role in forced displacement of people in the coming years. Furthermore, the displacement will have negative effects on health and could be a cause of borne disease and poverty. In order to lower the effects of climate change, these forms and hazards should be incorporated into health planning and policy measures, which must include deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, protection and enhancement of the biosphere.


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