"Based on these emerging findings, it is likely that the societal reach of climate change could be much broader to include warm regions that are now relatively safe from natural disasters, she added."
New York, July 1 - Gradual increase in an area's overall temperature actually leads more often to permanent population shifts than do natural calamities, claims a new research.
Researchers at Princeton University examined 15 years of migration data for more than 7,000 families in Indonesia and found that increases in temperature and, to a lesser extent, rainfall influenced a family's decision to permanently migrate to another of the country's provinces.
On the other hand, natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes had a much smaller to non-existent impact on permanent moves, suggesting that during natural disasters relocation was most often temporary.
The results suggest that the consequences of climate change will likely be more subtle and permanent than is popularly believed, said first author Pratikshya Bohra-Mishra.
The effects likely won't be limited to low-lying areas or developing countries that are unprepared for an up-tick in hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, she said.
We do not think of 'environmental migrants' in a broader sense; images of refugees from natural disasters often dominate the overall picture, Bohra-Mishra said.
It is important to understand the often less conspicuous and gradual effects of climate change on migration.
Our study suggests that in areas that are already hot, a further increase in temperature will increase the likelihood that more people will move out, she said.
Indonesia's tropical climate and dependence on agriculture may amplify the role of temperature as a migration factor, she said.
Based on these emerging findings, it is likely that the societal reach of climate change could be much broader to include warm regions that are now relatively safe from natural disasters, she added.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.