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Law & Ethics of Human Rights

Editor-in-Chief: Stopler, Gila

Editorial Board: Benvenisti, Eyal / Cohen-Eliya, Moshe / Macedo, Stephen / Rosenblum, Nancy

CiteScore 2018: 0.19

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.118
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.225

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Volume 7, Issue 2


Are We Morally Obligated to Assist Climate Change Migrants?

Katrina M. Wyman
Published Online: 2013-12-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lehr-2013-0007


There is considerable concern that climate change will displace many people in developing countries from their homes. This article examines whether developed countries are morally obligated to assist people displaced by climate change in developing countries. The article argues that there may not be a moral duty to assist climate change migrants as a category. Nonetheless, developed countries may have duties to assist vulnerable people elsewhere and may be obligated to assist climate change migrants along with other vulnerable people. In addition, there likely is a duty to assist a particular subset of climate change migrants, specifically the citizens of small island countries existentially threatened by climate change. The article concludes by assessing the implications of its moral analysis for the focus of law and policy. Instead of developing new treaties to assist climate change migrants as a number of academics and practitioners have recently proposed, law and policy should be concerned with assisting migrants at risk generally, and/or the citizens of small island countries existentially threatened by climate change.

Keywords: climate change; migrants; borders; human rights; displacement

About the article

Published Online: 2013-12-18

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: The Law & Ethics of Human Rights, Volume 7, Issue 2, Pages 185–212, ISSN (Online) 1938-2545, ISSN (Print) 2194-6531, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lehr-2013-0007.

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