Today, the increasing use of fossils and the increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs) have caused climate change. Unfortunately, climate change has become one of the direst crises of our time, causing natural disasters that often result in the eviction of large groups of people, called ‘climate migrants.’ These migrants move to city and state borders to escape the devastating impacts of climate change on their homes and communities. As per the United Nations International Organization for Migration, around one billion people will become climate migrants in the coming next three decades. This number might extend to 1.2 billion by 2050 and 1.4 billion by 2060.
“As per the United Nations International Organization for Migration, around one billion people will become climate migrants in the coming next three decades.”-Ritesh Sutaria
How do these migrants differ from other migrants and refugees? How can we make better plans to save the environment, mitigate climate change, and manage climate migration using artificial intelligence?
How Do Climate Migrants Differ from Other Migrants?
The United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention explains the term ‘refugee’ as a person who is compelled to flee their country due to a continuous looming threat of persecution and human rights violations. In addition, refugees are provided with a legal right to access international protection, and states are obliged to assess their cases and offer protection whenever required.
Migrants can be classified into a much larger category, needing a concrete legal definition and specific protection. Economic migrants are the one who leaves their country to look for economic opportunities, including work, study, and starting or joining a family. Displaced people are driven out of their states by extreme circumstances like political unrest, violence, and natural disasters. Many times it is observed that many migrants face imminent risk upon returning to their countries, even when they are not addressed as refugees.
International organizations are still not very open to offering special protections to migrants, specifically ‘climate migrants.’ However, the UN, other international organizations, and governments are working hard and continuously to address humanitarian issues and displacement caused by climate change by making strides in disaster relief assistance and increasing public awareness of this issue. Though these excellent steps towards extended protection of climate migrants have been made, it is important to reconsider how we can develop a more efficient and effective means of managing climate migration as the number of climate migrants keeps growing. AI can be the answer to this.
AI and Climate Migration
The correct use of Artificial Intelligence provides a unique stance on climate migration that can aid climate migrants and states. We need to understand data collection mechanisms to boost AI efforts for climate migration. Current data sources enclose national authorities, NGOs, and IGOs, and administrative data sources, like humanitarian visa numbers. Other data are collected from systems designed by organizations like IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, which monitors and follows disaster displacements.
However, most of the time, these are updated after a disaster occurs and do not convey the urgency of the matter. Using AI as a predictive and preventive mechanism permits individuals and governments to make the required preparations before any natural disaster strikes. By collecting data reflective of potential and literal natural disasters occurring, AI can provide precise insights into the consequences of these events.
By using satellite imagery and region-specific information such as past natural disasters and weather conditions, AI models can accurately predict various environmental events, such as rain forecasts, along with an estimated time and location.
This technology, along with cell phone data in an area, can support predictions about monsoons or floods and how catastrophic the consequences can be.
Using AI for this will allow individuals and states to be familiar with significant population displacements in advance, allowing them to allot the appropriate aids for relief where possible.
Some organizations are continuously working to develop climate-resilient infrastructure using AI. This infrastructure can prevent damaging results from natural disasters. This could produce a more efficient and cost-effective reaction to natural disasters.
For example, Germany implemented AI-enabled identification management in its Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to make asylum processes more efficient and productive. The use of AI has become more prevalent across different countries but the most crucial point to remember is that AI can be genuinely effective if used responsibly.
AI Must Be Used Responsibly
If AI is not used responsibly, it can lead to violations of the same rights it was employed to do; for example, it can lead to the unethical use of data for biased asylum management and violate the privacy and security of climate migrants.
However, Artificial Intelligence can yield great results when used properly, most notably in decision-making regarding asylum to push more equitable processes at borders and camps and for tracking climate migrants as they travel across land and sea. It can also be used to reduce migrant flows.
For example, Stanford Immigration Policy Lab’s program Geomatch depends on AI to forecast where migrants can integrate rapidly and thrive based on their characteristics and data from previous migrants in the suggested areas.
Another example shows the use of AI to assist states in finding homes for climate migrants. These are just a few available and potential uses of AI that help reduce the stress on governments and individuals affected by climate migration. There are many untouched approaches to making our new reality more manageable using AI.
There is no way to escape from the consequences caused by us; we cannot dodge climate change and its effects. The responsible use of AI technology will expand and make this sector smarter by improving the future approach towards an issue that can help us understand the complexity of climate migration.
International organizations are not very steady in representing and guarding climate migrants. However, AI can improve this approach. Yet more integration with this technology is required to accelerate the good and proper use for humanitarian causes and to extend climate resilience efforts and the ability to access measures or solutions by states and communities that are severely affected by climate issues.