Skip to main content

Padmapukur. 2009. Hurricane Aila destroyed the dikes, thus causing daily flooding of the communities. Most of the villagers now live in makeshift huts and tents on the dikes, while their home and villages are flooded. As a result of such events many people move away from the delta region of Bangladesh more permanently, often finding work in the capital, Dhaka. 

Moving images: portraying the lives of people who migrate due to climate change impacts

April 3 2019

Alex Randall

Climate Visuals has a new collection of photography looking at the connections between climate change and migration. The image collection puts a human face to what is often a complex and controversial issue. The collection of photographs attempts to represent some of the diversity of experience of people who move due to climate change impacts.

Houses destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in Palo, Leyte. When people are displaced by disasters like Typhoon Haiyan they tend to move short distances to the nearest place of safety. 

At the moment most of the human movement linked to climate change is internal. People do not cross international borders. This is somewhat at odds with how this issue is often portrayed in the mainstream media. Currently the majority of people who move due to climate impacts move short distances in order to escape sudden climate driven disasters like hurricanes and flash flooding. Our new collection of images reflects these patterns of human movement linked to climate change impacts. The collection illustrates recent episodes of sudden climate-linked displacement from across the world, such as the large scale displacements following both hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Another key driver of migration linked to climate change is drought. This often creates patterns of migration out of rural areas and into cities. As drought erodes farming livelihoods, people look for work elsewhere, and this usually means leaving the countryside and seeking employment in a city.

Dhaka. 2009. After heavy rains, large parts of Dhaka filled up with water. Many people move from rural farming areas into cities as a result of climate
impacts like drought. However they are often then exposed to a new set of risks, including other climate impacts like flooding.

Again, our new collection of images shows people embarking on this form of climate-linked migration from across the world. It is very common that these migrants are forced to accept some of the hardest and most poorly regulated jobs. The images in the collection illustrate the kinds of work and situations in which these migrants often end up.

Workers building a new sea wall near Bonriki International Airport, Kiribati, Tarawa.

The Pacific islands have become iconic of the wider issue of climate-linked migration. As some of the most vulnerable locations on the planet, many island nations and people are already moving to avoid climate change impacts such as sea level rise and typhoons. However, the experiences of people in these situations are very diverse. Many wish to remain in spite of the future risks, fearing that community connections, traditions and language could be eroded and lost by moving. Others have already taken up existing migration options, often moving to New Zealand for work and study. Other groups are planning community scale relocations in which entire towns are moved to safer locations.

Our new collection of images reflects some of this diversity, showing different Pacific communities engaging in adaptation projects and considering options for migration.

This collection contains images from a number of talented professional photographers. The images are available to licence through our partner agencies and some of the images are available under a Creative Commons licence.

Peia Kararaua, 16, swims in the flooded area of Aberao village. Kiribati is one of the countries most affected by sea level rise. Many people are already planning how to
migrate away from low lying Pacific island states. However, many others wish to stay in spite of the risks.