Research Questions.


Located in the North Pacific, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are directly facing the challenges associated with climate change and climate variability.[1] The RMI consists of 70 square miles of land surrounded by 750,000 square miles of ocean. The chain of 29 coral atolls, made up of 1,200 islands, stand at just 6 feet above sea level and are at risk of increased inundation.[2]

Persistent climatic shocks and El Niño aggravated impact of climate change severely affects the low-lying island nation-state. Rising sea level means RMI’s coastal areas are increasingly vulnerable to flooding, wave inundation, erosion from storms, shifts in precipitation and resulting drought, surface temperature increases, hurricanes, and tsunamis and the associated impacts on freshwater supply and habitable land. [3]

Climatic changes often act in concert with other socioeconomic factors to drive displacement.[4] Changes in the integrity of ecosystem goods and services can generate health problems or food insecurity, and may play an even greater role if they emerge in a community characterized by political, social, or economic tension. Socioeconomic and demographic factors such as poverty, economic dependency, and increasing population density increase household’s vulnerability to the climate change.[5]


[1] James Morrissey, Environmental Change and Forced Migration: A State of the Art Review (Oxford: Refugee Studies Center, 2009), p. 226.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Climate Change and Pacific Islands: Indicators and Impacts - Report for the 2012 Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) by Victoria W. Keener, John J. Marra, Melissa L. Finucane, Deanna Spooner, and Margaret H. Smith (eds.) National Climate Asessment Regional Technical Input Report Series. Washington, DC: Island Press. 


This research project studies the multi-causal nature of Marshallese migration and its effects on migrants themselves and communities in source and destination areas.

The three central research questions are: 

1.     To what extent are climatic stressors, and their impacts on ecosystems, livelihoods and habitability, already driving migration in RMI?

2.     What are the impacts of migration in source and destinations areas?

3.    How do migration reasons and consequences vary among different types of respondents?












[4] Thomas, A. (2014). Protecting people displaced by weather-related disasters and climate change: experience from the field. Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, 15: 803-808. Retrieved from

[5] A. Woodward, S. Hales, P. Weinstein, Climate Change and Human Health in the Asia Pacific Region: Who will be Most Vulnerable?  Clim Res 11 (1998), pp. 31-38.

Majuro, RMI