Marc Helbling
Attitudes Towards Climate Change Migrants

Climatic Change , 2020: 160, Heft 1, S. 89-102
ISSN: 0165-0009

While climate change has become a salient political and social issue in Western societies,we know relatively little about how these societies will react to one of the potentiallyimportant consequences of climate change: increasing migration flows. By means of arepresentative online survey in Germany, this paper therefore investigates for the veryfirst time to what extent citizens in industrialized societies are willing to accept climatechange migrants, especially in comparison with other groups of migrants and refugees,and the circumstances and principles under which they would accept them. The findingsshow that climate change migrants receive high support levels comparable with thoseenjoyed by political refugees (migrants who need special protection) and that contrastwith attitudes towards economic migrants (who are often not seen as in need of specialprotection). We also see that people are more likely to accept justifications for takingclimate change migrants when they realize that the expected number of migrants isrelatively low. While arguments about morality, corrective justice, and a country’scapacity lead to similar acceptance rates in general, the latter argument plays a moreimportant role for highly educated people and non-environmentalists than the former two.The findings of this study allow us to better prepare for potential conflicts that mightemerge with increasing migration flows caused by climate change.