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One of the most consequential human responses to climate change is and will continue to be the mass movement of people. As the environmental impacts of climate change increase in scope and severity, more and more people will move to new places to preserve or enhance their lives and livelihoods. As individuals, families, and entire communities facing the fallout of a changing climate decide to relocate, it will transform the human geography of the planet. Some places that are thriving population centers today could become entirely uninhabitable, and other places may become better suited for large-scale human settlement.

In this paper, RAND researchers provide a framework for understanding how nation-states are developing policies to respond to climate migration and mobility. They review related policies in six countries: Bangladesh, Kiribati, Kenya, Norway, the United States, and Vanuatu. Each country has different means and faces different climate mobility pressures. By evaluating these case studies, the authors identify a variety of policies and programs that governments are undertaking to prepare for, enable, channel, assist, or prevent the climate-induced human movement that is already ongoing in some places and is expected to increase significantly in both number and geographic scope in the coming decades. They use this analysis to identify the reasons that states pursue climate mobility policies, and they identify categories of policy responses that countries are enacting. These findings can provide policymakers with high-level options when considering the broad needs of climate migrants and their host communities and when designing their own policies.

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Funding for this effort was provided by the generous contributions of the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security Advisory Board. The research described in this paper was conducted within the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security (CGRS).

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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