Research Handbook on Climate Change, Migration and the Law
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Research Handbook on Climate Change, Migration and the Law

Edited by Benoît Mayer and François Crépeau

This comprehensive Research Handbook provides an overview of the debates on how the law does, and could, relate to migration exacerbated by climate change. It contains conceptual chapters on the relationship between climate change, migration and the law, as well as doctrinal and prospective discussions regarding legal developments in different domestic contexts and in international governance.
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Chapter 18: The refugees of the Anthropocene

François Gemenne


There are plenty of reasons, and not just legal reasons, to avoid using the term ‘climate refugee’. I am well aware of them. Without denying that these reasons exist, this chapter argues that there are also at least two good reasons to use the term ‘refugee’ – not in the legal sense, of course, but in the sense to which people relate when using that term, as a reflection of the plight of the individuals in question. And this is not just a matter of semantics. We should talk of climate refugees, this chapter submits, because climate change is a form of political persecution, and because the term ‘migrant’ has sadly become a life-threatening label, in a world marred by populism and xenophobia.

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