IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Emigration and resettlement

Emigration as a potentially effective adaptation strategy has been alluded to earlier, particularly in the context of temporary or permanent out-migrants providing remittances to home-island families, thereby enhancing home-island resilience (Barnett, 2001; Pelling and Uitto, 2001). Within-country migration and resettlement schemes have been common trends over the last several decades in many small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Both Kiribati and the Maldives have ongoing resettlement schemes and, for the past 70 years, the people of Sikaiana Atoll in the Solomon Islands have been migrating away from their atoll, primarily to Honiara, the capital (Donner, 2002). Similarly there has been internal migration from the Cartaret Islands in Papua New Guinea to Bougainville, and from the outer islands of Tuvalu to the capital Funafuti (Connell, 1999), the former as a consequence of inundation from high water levels and storms, the latter primarily in search of wage employment.

In the case of Tuvalu, this internal migration has brought almost half of the national population to Funafuti atoll, with negative environmental consequences, and the Government has indicated that there is also visual evidence of sea-level rise through increased erosion, flooding and salinisation (Connell, 2003). Connell suggests that, as a result, the global media have increasingly emphasised a doomsday scenario for Tuvalu, as a symbol of all threatened small island environments. Farbotko (2005) also indicates that Tuvalu is becoming prominent in connection with climate-change-related sea-level rise. She undertook an analysis of reports in a major Australian newspaper over the past several years, and suggests that implicating climate change in the identity of Tuvaluans as ‘vulnerable’ operates to silence alternative identities that emphasise resilience. Indeed, she says that her analysis “has highlighted the capacity for vulnerability rhetoric to silence discourse of adaptation” and concludes that “adaptive strategies are significant for island peoples faced with climate change” and that “it is adaptation, perhaps even more than relocation or mitigation initiatives, which is of immediate importance in island places… [especially] in the face of changes brought about by ‘global warming’” (Farbotko, 2005).

On the other hand, Adger et al. (2003a) argue that migration is a feasible climate adaptation strategy in particular circumstances, including in small islands. However, they suggest that because of current inequities in labour flows, particularly for international migration, this adaptation strategy is likely to be contested, and may be a limited option in many parts of the world, even for residents from small island states. They suggest that other means of supporting adaptive capacity and enhancing resilience are required, including building on existing coping strategies, or by introducing innovation in terms of technology or institutional development (Adger et al., 2003a).