Climate Change, Disasters and Human Mobility

Course content

Climate change is perhaps the defining challenge of the contemporary era. Among its many costs are the human consequences for those who reside in places that are the most severely impacted.
cean inundation, soil salination, sea-level rise, drought, floods and other extreme weather events are now threatening both the livability and even the existence of some countries.
People are faced with difficult decisions about whether and when to leave, and if they do, where to go.
This course examines the contemporary issue of climate change and its impact on human mobility and migration from it’s a legal perspective, while taking account of the topic’s complexity outside the law.


The course will be broken into themes as follows:

  • Who is a climate migrant? Conceptualising climate change as a factor that is causing and impeding human mobility, both within and across borders
  • The nexus between climate change and other drivers of migration, and the protections available under the 1951 Refugee Convention, regional refugee arrangements and the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa
  • Legal responses to disasters, their prevention and response, and the intersection with human mobility including under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the ideas encompassed in the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disaster
  • Disappearing states, statelessness and the relevance and application of the 1954 Statelessness Convention
  • Human rights law including recent cases before UN human rights treaty bodies which have considered the application of the principle of non-refoulement in the context of climate change and the unique protections afforded to indigenous communities and also to children.
  • The legal framework governing climate change and its relevance to climate migration, including the Taskforce on Displacement created under the auspices of the Paris Agreement and recent trends in climate change litigation under human rights arrangements
  • Solutions available through legal frameworks, including options and methods for opening regular migration pathways, enhancing local resilience to climate related hazards through planning, property and human rights law, and the possibility of a new international treaty for climate migrants.


Learning outcome

The course will balance the central theories of international law with the joint challenges of climate change and migration. Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Conceptualise climate change related migration, including as it relates to disappearing states, statelessness and relocation
  • Explain the tensions and distinctions between protection-based and migration-based legal responses to climate change migration, including the relevance of refugee law and human rights law
  • Identify and articluate the strengths and weaknesses of various emerging and proposed approaches to climate change related migration


The students will develop and further skills and competences in:

  • Identifying relevant legal frameworks, distinguishing between facts and law
  • Applying the law to specific fact circumstances
  • Constructing legal argument
  • Conceptualising a complex social dilemma into distinct legal constructs

Every year, students are asked to prepare a reserach assignment in groups as part of the course based on a problem presented to them by a professional engaged in responding to climate-related displacement on the ground, a legal practitioner preparing cases in the field, or a person who is themselves displaced or facing displacement due to climate change related impacts. This means the students are actively engaged in researching real-world problems to identify and provide legal solutions in real time.

Jane McAdam, Climate Change, Forced Migration and International Law (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Approximately 500 pages will be assigned reading. Readings will be posted on Absalon and will be divided into mandatory and optional reading.

Students must have a sound command of English in written and spoken form.

Previous Migration and Forced Displacement from Climate Change

Continuous feedback during the course
Type of assessment
Written examination, 1 day
Type of assessment details
Assigned individual written assignment, 1 day
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 343,5
  • Seminar
  • 69
  • English
  • 412,5


Course number
Programme level
Bachelor choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching time
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Miriam Cullen   (13-79757e756d793a6f817878717a4c76817e3a77813a7077)
Saved on the 28-04-2022

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