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Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law$
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Jane McAdam

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587087

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587087.001.0001

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The Relevance of International Refugee Law

The Relevance of International Refugee Law

(p.39) 2 The Relevance of International Refugee Law
Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law

Jane Mcadam

Oxford University Press

The term ‘climate change refugee’ is sometimes used to describe a person who will be forced to leave his or her home as a result of the impact of climate change. While this label may be useful from a political perspective, in that it highlights some of the most extreme ways in which climate change will affect human society, it is both legally and conceptually flawed. This chapter examines the extent to which international refugee law may apply to people displaced by the impacts of climate change. Though there are some circumstances in which it will be applicable, it is, by and large, an inappropriate normative framework for responding to the needs of those forced to move on account of environmental change or climate change. Nevertheless, refugee law has some useful standards to offer any new protection-oriented instrument, such as the assessment of potential, future harm, rather than a requirement of past harm.

Keywords:   climate change refugee, international law, displacement, harm, environmental change

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