skip to Main Content

Preparing for a warmer world: Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees

Biermann, Frank, Ingrid Boas. 2010. Preparing for a warmer world: Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees. Global Environmental Politics, 10(1): 60-88.


Climate change threatens to cause the largest refugee crisis in human history. Millions of people, largely in Africa and Asia, might be forced to leave their homes to seek refuge in other places or countries over the course of the century. Yet the current institutions, organizations, and funding mechanisms are not sufficiently equipped to deal with this looming crisis. The situation calls for new governance. We outline and discuss in this article a blueprint for a global governance architecture for the protection and voluntary resettlement of climate refugees—defined as people who have to leave their habitats because of sudden or gradual alterations in their natural environment related to one of three impacts of climate change: sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and drought and water scarcity. We provide an extensive review of current estimates of likely numbers and probable regions of origin of climate refugees. With a view to existing institutions, we argue against the extension of the definition of refugees under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Key elements of our proposal are, instead, a new legal instrument specifically tailored for the needs of climate refugees—a Protocol on Recognition, Protection, and Resettlement of Climate Refugees to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—as well as a separate funding mechanism.

You might like these publication categories

Recent publications

2022 Annual Report

Curious to know about the various parts of the Earth System Governance Project, and what has been achieved in 2022?…

Global Shifts: Business, Politics, and Deforestation in a Changing World Economy

What global shifts in markets and power mean for the politics and governance of sustainability. In recent years, major shifts…

Earth System Governance – Volume 16

We are delighted to present the sixteenth volume of Earth System Governance, the new open-access journal for all those interested…