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Does the United States Need a Climate Refugee Policy?

Monday, February 5, 2018 at 2:55pm to 4:10pm

Riley-Robb Hall, 125
111 Wing Drive, Ithaca, NY 14853

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reports that, since 2008, roughly 25 million people have been displaced each year because of sudden-onset disasters such as hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, and tsunamis.  More difficult to count are those who are displaced by slower-developing environmental crises such as deforestation, erosion, drought and the salinization of fresh water sources.  According to some forecasts, unmitigated climate change may result in the displacement of as many as 250 million people by mid-century, many of who will have no choice but to cross international borders in search of refuge.  Migration has always been a strategy of survival and adaption.  We can expect more migration in response to climate change but the exact numbers are impossible to predict. 

What legal protections are available to the so-called “climate refugees”?  What are the duties of nations?  How does U.S. immigration policy respond to those fleeing environmental crises?  Does the United States need a “climate refugee policy”?  What might that look like?


The 2018 Cornell University Climate Change Seminar meets Monday afternoons through May 7. This university-wide seminar provides important views on the critical issue of climate change, drawing from many perspectives and disciplines. Experts from Cornell University and other universities will present an overview of the science of climate change and climate change models, the implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems, and provide important economic, ethical, and policy insights on the issue.

The seminar is free and open to the Cornell and Ithaca Community at large.

Organized and sponsored by the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

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Event Type



Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Sustainability



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Danielle Lee Eiseman


Maria Cristina Garcia

Speaker Affiliation

Department of History

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