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Asylum applications respond to temperature fluctuations

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1610-1614
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0432

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Warming stresses developing countries

Weather-induced conflicts in developing countries spill over to developed countries through asylum applications. One approach to estimating the future impacts of climate change is to look at the effects of weather fluctuations. These transient shocks can be interpreted analytically as randomly distributed treatments applied to countries around the world. Missirian and Schlenker analyzed the relation between these localized shocks to agriculture and applications by that country's migrants for asylum in the European Union. When temperatures in the source country deviated from a moderate optimum around 20°C that is best for agriculture, asylum applications increased. Thus, the net forecast is for asylum applications to increase as global temperatures rise.

Science, this issue p. 1610

Abstract

International negotiations on climate change, along with recent upsurges in migration across the Mediterranean Sea, have highlighted the need to better understand the possible effects of climate change on human migration—in particular, across national borders. Here we examine how, in the recent past (2000–2014), weather variations in 103 source countries translated into asylum applications to the European Union, which averaged 351,000 per year in our sample. We find that temperatures that deviated from the moderate optimum (~20°C) increased asylum applications in a nonlinear fashion, which implies an accelerated increase under continued future warming. Holding everything else constant, asylum applications by the end of the century are predicted to increase, on average, by 28% (98,000 additional asylum applications per year) under representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenario 4.5 and by 188% (660,000 additional applications per year) under RCP 8.5 for the 21 climate models in the NASA Earth Exchange Global Daily Downscaled Projections (NEX-GDDP).

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