Evaluating migration as successful adaptation to climate change: Trade-offs in well-being, equity, and sustainability

Lucy Szaboova, William Neil Adger, Ricardo Safra de Campos, Amina Maharjan, Patrick Sakdapolrak, Harald Sterly, Declan Conway, Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe, Mumuni Abu

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


The role of migration as one potential adaptation to climate change is increasingly recognized, but little is known about whether migration constitutes successful adaptation, under what conditions, and for whom. Based on a review of emerging migration science, we propose that migration is a successful adaptation to climate change if it increases well-being, reduces inequality, and promotes sustainability. Well-being, equity, and sustainability represent entry points for identifying trade-offs within and across different social and temporal scales that could potentially undermine the success of migration as adaptation. We show that assessment of success at various scales requires the incorporation of consequences such as loss of population in migration source areas, climate risk in migration destination, and material and non-material flows and economic synergies between source and destination. These dynamics and evaluation criteria can help make migration visible and tractable to policy as an effective adaptation option.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-631
Number of pages12
JournalOne Earth
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 105205 Climate change
  • 504021 Migration research
  • 509023 Development research


  • migration
  • adaptation
  • climate change
  • well-being
  • equity
  • sustainability
  • gender
  • remittances
  • trade-offs

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