Climate-related human mobility (climate mobilities) is often portrayed as a key impact of human-induced climate change. Yet, causal, quantitative evidence on this link remains limited and suffers from disciplinary hurdles. One reason for this is that existing case studies do not incorporate insights from climate science methods and pay little attention to contextual factors in climate mobilities. We use a dual-method approach to categorise and classify. By combining a qualitative case study analysis with statistical approaches from topic modelling in an innovative dual-method framework, we show current empirical evidence on weather and climate-related impacts and human mobility in East Africa, an alleged hot-spot of climate change. We find that although climate change is referred to, implicitly and explicitly, as a tipping point for human mobility, studies imply a causal link between human mobility and climate change while under or misrepresenting evidence in climate science. A map of evidence allows studies to be matched with human mobility types and contextual factors influencing such mobilities in a changing climate with a novel and more ambitious form of synthesis, carving out the multi-causal nature of human mobility. Our findings show that climatic influences on human mobility are not independent. Rather, climate factors influencing human mobility are closely connected with contextual factors such as social norms, economic opportunities, and conflict. The findings suggest that there is currently low confidence in a climate change-human mobility nexus for East Africa. As a way forward, we propose emerging methods to systematically research causal links between climate mobilities and anthropogenic climate change globally.
Thalheimer, L., Otto, F. & Abele, S. (2021) "Deciphering Impacts and Human Responses to a Changing Climate in East Africa", Frontiers in Climate. https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2021.692114