The first climate refugees? Contesting global narratives of climate change in Tuvalu

The first climate refugees? Contesting global narratives of climate change in Tuvalu

This article explores the uncertain outcomes of climate change effects for different populations. It argues that understanding climate change requires broad conceptualisations that incorporate multiple voices and recognise the agency of vulnerable populations. In climate change discourse, climate mobility is often characterised as the production of ‘refugees’, with a tendency to discount long histories of ordinary mobility among affected populations. The paper shows that in Tuvalu migration as an everyday practice is paired together with climate refugee narratives. Tuvaluans are, thus, being used as the immediate evidence of displacement that the climate change crisis narrative seems to require. However, the paper argues that Tuvaluan conceptions of climate challenges and mobility practices show that more inclusive sets of concepts and tools are needed to equitably and effectively approach and characterise population mobility.

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