No one is currently emigrating from Pacific small island states principally due to climate change, according to Australian geographer Jon Barnett
of the University of Melbourne. In this short interview conducted at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Barnett situates climate change’s potential future impacts within the broader social, political, and economic challenges for residents of small island states, reminding us that there is great physical and political diversity among these islands.
Stressing the mix of pushes and pulls that motivate people to move, Barnett suggests we examine existing patterns of migration to better understand how they will develop in the future. He emphasizes that climate change is most likely to push islanders to move due to declining food production and drinking water availability, rather than sea-level rise—despite the iconic image of lapping waves submerging low-lying countries. These sober reminders on the complexity of climate-migration links are worth keeping in mind when evaluating the plethora of new reports on the topic.