In Search of Refuge: Pacific Islands, Climate-Induced Migration, and the Legal Frontier


Maxine Burkett

Asia Pacific Issues, No. 98


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: January 2011
Binding: paper
Pages: 8
Free Download: PDF


SUMMARY  |  As the effects of climate change intensify, time is running out for millions living in Asia Pacific coastal and island communities. Many will be forced to leave their homes within the next half-century because of increased intensity and frequency of storms and floods, sea-level rise, and desertification. The low-lying small island states of the Pacific are especially endangered; residents there may lose not only their homes, but their entire nations. Planning aimed at avoiding humanitarian disaster and political chaos should already have begun, but a stumbling block is international law, which is not prepared to address the cross-cutting impacts of climate and migration. Finding viable solutions will require new ways of thinking, pushing the law to a new frontier that calls for a reconsideration of existing legal boundaries.


The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Center.