The LIRS Climate Hub offers resources, updates, and information on upcoming LIRS events and initiatives.
For 80 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has assisted forcibly uprooted people from around the globe. But increasingly, we are seeing an unprotected group seeking refuge: migrants who are forced to flee due to environmental changes.
Climate Displacement FAQ
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there was an average of 22.5 million people displaced by climate or weather-related events between the years 2008 and 2018. The International Organization for Migration also estimates that by 2050 there will be 200 million climate displaced persons. Sudden onset weather events (flooding, forest fires and storms) and slow-onset events (desertification, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, air pollution, rain pattern shifts and loss of biodiversity) will exacerbate humanitarian crises and lead more people to migrate.
As the number of climate-displaced persons is projected to continue rising, the population still lacks protections under US and international law, making it impossible to assist them under our current legal system.
In 2018, the international community took an important step in recognizing climate-displaced persons through the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees. The report included a section on migration which identifies climate change as a driver of migration and suggests countries work together to start planning for people who move due to natural disasters and climate change. While the report was overwhelmingly adopted by 164 countries, the US did not adopt the document.
As the issue of climate change becomes more dire, the community aiding globally displaced people must come together to address the challenges that exist in assisting them. Those challenges include:
- Lack of legal protections for climate-displaced persons
- No consensus on the terminology to describe people that move due to environmental reasons (i.e., climate/environmental refugee vs. climate-displaced persons vs. climate migrants)
- Proving climate and environmental factors as the reason for migration
- Recognition of climate change and climate-related migration
- Acceptance of migration as a strategy to protect individuals
- Creation of pathways to aid individuals who choose to migrate
At LIRS, we think the first step is gathering the best and brightest minds to fully understand the realities of the climate crisis and to begin generating real, actionable solutions to assist our brothers and sisters affected by climate displacement. Learn more by watching our webinars, checking out our resources, reading our reports, and staying engaged on social media.
Read our Climate Displacement Report
It cannot be ignored: climate change will become the biggest driver of migration in the 21st century, and hundreds of millions of people are at risk of losing their homes temporarily and permanently by the end of the century.
However, we have all that we need to help and save these millions of people. But first, we need to make serious changes to our immigration system. Read LIRS’s recommendations for the Biden administration, Congress, and all our leaders in our Climate Displacement Report below.
“Through nature, God teaches, communicates, and provides for the needs of humans. We are called by scripture and morality to partner with God in preserving, healing, and sustaining what God has granted us: our world, its people, and the beauty of creation…”
Christians are called to care for God’s creation, including the planet, its people, and all its fantastic creatures and natural wonders. Read more in our faith response below.
Take the Climate Migration Quiz
Watch Our Webinars
For “Climate Migration: Addressing the Crisis,” Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) convened a panel of experts to explore the unique intersection of climate change and forced migration.
The event was moderated by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah and featured three expert panelists: Walter Kalin, Former Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; Faye Matthews, Legal Policy Advisor for the Gulf and Mississippi River Delta Restoration Programs at National Wildlife Federation; and David Gardiner, president of David Gardiner and Associates, which focuses on climate change and clean energy issues and advises non-profit and for-profit organizations
Where does faith fit into the understanding of climate change and humanity’s role in it? How can faith communities mobilize to help those affected by climate displacement? What can people of faith do to protect our planet and those living on it? These are just a few of the topics Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) addresses in “God, Migration, and the Climate Crisis,” a virtual panel.
Moderated by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the panel includes celebrated environmentalist and New Yorker columnist Bill McKibben, ethics and climate justice expert Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Pastor Tommy Richter, who saw firsthand the effects of climate change on his congregation in a remote Alaskan village.
Climate Migration Resources
- GROUNDSWELL: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, a comprehensive report by the World Bank
- A Guide To Effective Practices For RCM Member Countries: Protection for persons moving across borders in the context of disasters
- 350.org, Bill McKibben’s global environmental activism and advocacy organization
- Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan
- “Tragedy of a Village Built on Ice,” a CNN video featuring the Shishmaref community
- Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE)
- “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice,” a social statement from the ELCA
- “Laudato si’,” Pope Francis’ statement on “Care for Our Common Home”
- Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Climate Justice & Faith Concentration, led by Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda
- Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation by Dr. Moe Lobeda
- “Shishmaref: Called to Care,” a Living Lutheran article about Pastor Tommy Richter’s work in Shishmaref