Climate Change Refugees

17 Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 619 (2014)

19 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2014 Last revised: 21 Sep 2014

Date Written: February 26, 2014


Under the UNHCR definition of a refugee, set out in the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, people fleeing their homes because of natural disasters or other environmental problems do not qualify for refugee status and the protection that come from such status. In a recent paper, "Who Are Refugees?", I defended the essentials of the UNHCR definition on the grounds that refugee status and protection is best reserved for people who can only be helped by granting them refuge in a safe state for an indefinite period of time, and argued that this does not include most people fleeing from natural disasters. This claim is most strongly challenged by possibility of displacement from climate change. In this paper I will explore to what degree the logic of the refugee convention, as set out in my earlier paper, can and should be extended to those fleeing the results of climate change, and will argue that the logic of the refugee convention tells in favor of extending refugee protection to a portion of those who must flee their homes because of climate-change related environmental problems.

Keywords: refugees, asylum, climate change, refugee law, global justice, human rights, international law, political philosophy

JEL Classification: F22

Suggested Citation

Lister, Matthew J., Climate Change Refugees (February 26, 2014). 17 Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 619 (2014), Available at SSRN:

Matthew J. Lister (Contact Author)

Bond University Faculty of Law ( email )

14 University Drive
Robina, Queensland 3125

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