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  • Human Rights Research Center

Assisting Climate Change Refugees from Small Island Developing States: The Duty of Post-Industrial United States

February 21, 2024

The Maldives is often considered the ultimate destination for savoring a Piña Colada. Imagine, though, trying to picture this sensation beneath the waves. It might seem unlikely, right? For those born in 2023, picturing the Maldives and other low-lying islands on maps from 2050 (unlivable) to 2100 (submerging) could reveal their disappearance, much like the fate of the Dodos. Yet, this occurrence won't be due to overhunting or poaching. Instead, it will arise from the irresponsible use of fossil fuels, leading to a concerning increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The Maldives represents one of numerous low-lying island nations destined to submerge because of climate change, largely driven by greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the uproar over the disappearance of these opulent holiday destinations, there's notable apathy from both frequent visitors to these islands and the global community toward the inhabitants who lack the luxury of departing at their leisure.


This research article highlights the notable deficiencies in safeguarding individuals who face the risk of statelessness, focusing on the United States, a key contributor to climate change. It specifically examines the shortcomings within the country's refugee protection policies, notably the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) established by the Immigration Act of 1990[1]. In this context, the project will delve into the responsibilities and obligations of the US, a historically significant polluter, in taking a crucial position regarding offering asylum to climate refugees facing enduring losses due to climate change—an obligation grounded in morality and ethics. Furthermore, the article will assess the limitations of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the restricted measures put in place by past administrations. It will conclude by proposing potential solutions for rehabilitating individuals at risk of statelessness and suggesting directions for future research to address this urgent crisis.



Looking back in history, the origins of today's climate change crisis can be traced back to centuries of unchecked industrialization and pollution, mainly linked to a few countries now labeled as "developed nations." Driven by economic progress, these nations have released substantial amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, unwittingly setting the stage for a global catastrophe that has steadily worsened since the Industrial Revolution. Sadly, the world faces the severe consequences of this extensive pollution, directly contributing to the submergence of entire islands. Currently, there is no comprehensive legal framework established to protect the rights and status of these stateless refugees whose homelands are disappearing beneath the ocean[2]. The objective of this research is to explore the emerging humanitarian and legal crisis, expected to escalate significantly in the coming years. Amidst this unparalleled global challenge, this article will examine possible paths to fill the gap in international legal structures, ensuring that climate refugees receive the vital protection, acknowledgment, and assistance they desperately need.


The first logical step involves exploring how human activities exacerbate climate change through the emission of greenhouse gasses. Human-induced climate change primarily stems from extensive greenhouse gas emissions in various human endeavors. A substantial contributor is power generation, where the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas for electricity and heat releases potent greenhouse gasses—carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide—into the atmosphere, intensifying the greenhouse effect (when greenhouse gases in a planet's atmosphere trap some of the heat radiated from the planet's surface, raising its temperature). Despite cleaner energy options like wind and solar power, a significant portion of global electricity production still relies on fossil fuels, sustaining these emissions. Individual consumption patterns also play a crucial role.


One consequential outcome of climate change is the warming and expanding ocean. Over the past two decades, there has been a notable acceleration in ocean warming at all depths due to the heat absorption caused by global warming. This increased temperature leads to the expansion of the ocean's volume since water naturally expands when heated. Consequently, melting ice sheets contribute to rising sea levels, posing immediate threats to coastal and island communities worldwide. Additionally, while the ocean plays a critical role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the higher concentration of carbon dioxide results in increased ocean acidity. This heightened acidity level poses a severe threat to marine life and delicate ecosystems like coral reefs, jeopardizing their survival.


The United States of America stands as the largest contributor to climate change globally, with China standing second[3]. However, this situation isn't unique to the U.S. Several post-industrial nations have significantly contributed to this environmental crisis. These countries have often left developing nations facing an ethical dilemma: curbing fossil fuel usage to aid their economies. At COP 26, these "developed nations" declined to support developing countries in meeting their emission reduction targets. Given its status as the most polluting nation, it's logical for the United States to bear significant responsibility. However, it must also enact policies to assist those affected by climate disasters, leading to forced displacement and an impending rise in refugees, notably among residents of low-lying small island states.

The 20 largest contributors to cumulative CO2 emissions 1850-2021, billions of tonnes, broken down into subtotals from fossil fuels and cement (grey) as well as land use and forestry (green). Source: Carbon Brief analysis of figures from the Global Carbon Project, CDIAC, Our World in Data, Carbon Monitor, Houghton and Nassikas (2017) and Hansis et al (2015). Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

An essential question arises: why prioritize allocating resources to address the refugee crisis now? The answer lies in the gradual but inevitable onset of this catastrophe. Although projections indicate these islands might start sinking by the century's end, the stark reality is their eventual uninhabitability. Some regions have already witnessed climate-induced migration, where inhabitants are compelled to flee due to increasingly harsh conditions. Due to climate change's impact, numerous small, low-lying island states are forecasted to become uninhabitable by 2050 and fully submerged by 2100 (USGS 2018). Unfortunately, there's no legislation protecting individuals who will be displaced as climate refugees or rendered stateless due to these islands' submersion. However, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has been tasked with addressing this critical issue. Its stance is that "[i]f a state ceases to exist, citizenship of that state would cease, as there would no longer be a state of which a person could be a national"[4]. The United States provides limited assistance to these stateless individuals affected by climate-induced displacement since those rendered stateless by climate change fall outside its purview or recognition.


However, a critical issue arises with the Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian relief program established by the Immigration Act of 1990 to grant temporary legal status to individuals from designated countries. TPS safeguards immigrants who cannot safely return to their home countries due to armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary conditions. The key problem concerning TPS arises from the plight of individuals from island nations destined to become uninhabitable and sink, challenging the idea that their situation is temporary.

Another major hurdle involves amending the law itself, particularly the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, which falls under statutory law[5]. Statutory law is formulated by legislative bodies, in this instance, the United States Congress, through the enactment of specific statutes or laws. The INA serves as the comprehensive statutory framework governing immigration in the United States, outlining rules, procedures, and criteria for various immigration matters, including TPS. It forms the bedrock of the legal framework guiding immigration in the United States, encompassing the specific provisions related to TPS.


Amending TPS within statutory law presents unique challenges, especially amid polarized debates on immigration and climate change denial. The inflexibility of statutory laws, including TPS, complicates adapting to evolving circumstances, particularly crises in TPS-designated countries. The process to amend or repeal these laws is intricate, involving proposing and passing new legislation through Congress, often encountering hurdles like political debates, conflicting viewpoints among lawmakers, and extensive procedural steps. Polarization over immigration and climate change can intensify these challenges, delaying legislative actions necessary to address beneficiaries' needs.


Furthermore, the politicization of TPS and immigration-related policies can lead to contentious debates, potentially impeding necessary legislative actions. Denial of climate change, a factor impacting crises in TPS-designated countries, further complicates these discussions. These laws might become outdated or insufficient in addressing evolving situations, leaving affected individuals in uncertainty without immediate adjustments or extensions to their protected status. This uncertainty significantly affects those reliant on TPS, fostering feelings of unease and instability as they await legislative decisions. The divisive nature of these issues underscores the need for a more adaptable and prompt legislative response to immigration policies like TPS, or even consideration of a wholly new approach.


When considering stateless individuals affected by climate change, two possible scenarios emerge. The primary scenario involves the paradox of lacking a state while still maintaining legal citizenship status in a former country[6]. This situation, known as a deterritorialized island, implies that while the state ceases to exist, formal citizenship recognition remains intact, creating practical limitations akin to an effectively defunct state[7]. Specifically, individuals termed "de facto stateless persons" find themselves outside their country of citizenship, unable or unwilling to seek their country's protection[8]. This lack of connection leaves them without the typical support provided by their nation, either denied by authorities or voluntarily renounced[9]. Valid justifications for renouncing citizenship align with international refugee protection instruments, like persecution grounds outlined in the 1951 Refugee Convention or additional reasons detailed in regional instruments such as the 1984 Cartagena Declaration or the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Those renouncing their state's protection are considered refugees by definition. However, residing in a host state while retaining nationality from a 'deterritorialized' island doesn't fit this description unless ties with the country of origin are severed. Crucially, the absence of intentionally severing ties between the state and its nationals differentiates these cases from de facto statelessness.


The deficiencies within current legislation, both nationally and internationally, result from pervasive indifference and selective engagement not just by political figures but also by the broader populace. These gaps persist to the extent that there isn't a specific law, neither at national nor international levels, outlining the course of action when stateless individuals advocate for resolution or compensation due to their statelessness. This absence reflects a systemic oversight and neglect, failing to address the plight of stateless individuals seeking remedies. Moreover, the absence of legal provisions addressing the demands of actively advocating stateless individuals highlights a fundamental oversight, necessitating comprehensive legislative reforms and heightened awareness. These reforms should prioritize compassion, inclusivity, and proactive measures to ensure the protection and recognition of the rights of stateless individuals on national and global platforms.


Reflecting on history, decades before the Immigration Act of 1990 amended the TPS, concerns about global warming arose in the 1950s. In the early 1960s, C.D. Keeling's measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels revealed a rapid increase, sparking research efforts to comprehend historical fluctuations in these levels and their influences. These investigations highlighted the significant role of this gas in driving climate change, signifying its profound impact on the future. Notably, global communities, including the United States, have observed rising sea levels since the 19th century. Heightened awareness about the greenhouse effect's correlation with climate change has underscored its influence on rising sea levels. Consequently, climate change and environmental disasters prompted a broader acknowledgment of issues related to climate migration and the necessity for legislation protecting those affected.


Throughout history, the United States has stood as the primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, notably escalating after the Industrial Revolution. From 1850 onwards, the US has released over 509 gigatons of CO2, accounting for roughly 20% of the global total—a figure surpassing any other nation. This substantial emission output significantly impacts climate change, outweighing the contributions of other major emitters such as China (responsible for around 11%), followed by Russia (7%), Brazil (5%), and Indonesia (4%). Notably, countries like Germany and the UK, while significant emitters, hold smaller portions of the global total at 4% and 3%, respectively, excluding overseas emissions during colonial rule. The sheer magnitude of historical emissions places the US at the forefront of global contributions to climate change. While other nations have made substantial contributions, US emissions since the 1850s stand out as a pivotal factor in the overall carbon footprint. This historical context underscores the urgent need for collective action in climate mitigation and adaptation, stressing the responsibility of nations with extensive emission histories to spearhead efforts against climate change.


Before the Immigration Act of 1990, Extended Voluntary Departure (EVD) served as the precursor to Temporary Protected Status (TPS). EVD granted discretionary authority to the Attorney General, who previously oversaw the Immigration and Naturalization Service within the Department of Justice, to grant temporary permission for nationals from specific countries facing tumultuous conditions to remain in the United States. However, the establishment of TPS on October 3, 1990, led to Congress eliminating EVD. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an annual report, the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, meticulously tracking US greenhouse gas emissions and their sources across various economic sectors, dating back to 1990. This comprehensive report has been consistently produced by the EPA since the early 1990s, offering a detailed account of total greenhouse gas emissions from human-generated sources throughout the United States. Notably, this initial EPA report coincides with the incorporation of Temporary Protected Status into the Immigration Act of 1990, marking a simultaneous commencement in both tracking greenhouse gas emissions and institutionalizing TPS within the same year. Additionally, the US added environmental disasters in the TPS, citing the hurricane in Honduras in 1988, highlighting the necessity for humanitarian relief.


Besides TPS, refugees may receive other temporary provisions. One such provision is Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), a discretionary benefit bestowed by the President of the United States. DED shields specific individuals from deportation, permitting them to remain in the country for a set period. Unlike TPS, DED operates as an administrative provision falling within the President's authority concerning foreign relations. It allows for a collective stay of removal for particular individuals. In contrast, the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) lies within the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security, contingent upon an assessment of whether country conditions meet statutory criteria. Unlike TPS, DED lacks a legal foundation. While individuals under DED are protected from deportation, they do not possess recognized immigration status within the United States.





As previously outlined in this article, greenhouse gasses play a dual role as both contributors to and causes of climate change. The United States has consistently stood out as the leading global polluter since the Industrial Revolution, maintaining its position as the second-largest emitter in 2023. It's a noticeable trend that nations historically responsible for significant pollution are primarily those that kickstarted their economies during the Industrial Revolution. While benefiting from past practices that led to environmental degradation, these countries often advocate for developing nations to adopt more sustainable development methods to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and sea level rise. This hints at a certain contradiction in assigning responsibility for climate change, with developed nations seemingly blaming developing countries while sidelining their substantial historical contributions to the issue. India serves as a striking example; despite being home to about 1.4 billion people, its per capita emissions lag behind many other nations, including some developed ones like the US, Canada, and the UK, advocating for sustainable development.


The intensifying impact of climate change, particularly the threat of rising sea levels jeopardizing low-lying island states, presents a crisis entwined with moral, ethical, and legal dimensions. These nations, facing the imminent risk of becoming uninhabitable due to climate-induced phenomena, highlight a pressing global concern. As historically the most significant contributor to climate change, the US shoulders a profound responsibility in addressing this issue. The moral and ethical obligations to assist those most affected by climate change are heightened considering the US's role as a major polluter. Confronting an existential threat, low-lying island states face peril directly linked to excessive greenhouse gas emissions, largely set by industrialized nations. Thus, the ethical imperative lies in acknowledging the impact of these emissions and their repercussions on vulnerable populations.

Family members gather rocks and corals from the seabed to build a stone wall as protection against rising sea levels in Kiribati. [Image credit: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Within international frameworks, a glaring gap persists in providing adequate protection for climate refugees. Current legal structures inadequately address the unique challenges faced by individuals displaced due to climate change. Notably absent is formal legal recognition and defined protections for those compelled to relocate because of environmental crises. Moreover, these frameworks fail to allocate clear legal responsibilities or obligations to any specific nation or entity regarding the protection and assistance of climate refugees. This legal void leaves climate refugees vulnerable, lacking established rights, safeguards, and an accountable party ensuring their welfare.


The moral and ethical obligations surrounding aiding climate refugees are substantial and pressing. Morally, the responsibility arises from recognizing shared humanity and empathy for individuals facing displacement due to circumstances beyond their control. It involves acknowledging the inherent dignity and rights of every individual, including those affected by climate-induced migration. Ethically, it involves rectifying historical imbalances and acknowledging the contributions of developed nations, like the US, to climate change, while highlighting the disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities in developing nations.


Providing refuge for climate-displaced individuals stands as a crucial way for the US to uphold its moral and ethical duties, especially concerning climate-induced migration. Morally, sheltering and aiding displaced persons aligns with fundamental values like empathy, compassion, and recognizing shared humanity. Extending assistance to climate refugees illustrates a commitment to preserving the dignity and rights of those affected by uncontrollable circumstances. It signifies an empathetic response to others' plights, offering sanctuary to those fleeing environmental crises.


Ethically, welcoming climate refugees addresses imbalances caused by developed nations' substantial contributions to climate change. Nations like the US, among the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, taking in climate refugees signifies an acknowledgment of their responsibility for the consequences. It showcases an ethical commitment to rectify disparities, acknowledging that vulnerable communities in developing nations bear a disproportionate burden of climate change despite contributing far less to the environmental damage causing their displacement. By accepting climate refugees, nations, including the US, affirm their moral and ethical duties towards those affected by climate-induced migration, providing safety and opportunities for individuals and communities facing environmental displacement. However, while accepting refugees is crucial, it's just one part of a broader ethical responsibility encompassing proactive mitigation, international collaboration, and addressing climate change's root causes to prevent further displacement.


Recognizing the moral and ethical obligations is crucial, but exploring legal pathways to support climate refugees is equally pivotal. TPS poses challenges in aiding individuals from island nations facing irreversible inhabitable conditions due to climate change. Their situation contradicts the essence of TPS which is designed for temporary relief in crises, exposing a loophole in legislation that excludes such cases conveniently. The flaw becomes stark in examining amendments to the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, under which TPS falls. While comprehensive, statutory law lacks provisions catering specifically to climate-induced permanent nation loss, leaving refugees from sinking islands excluded from TPS.


This highlights a critical gap in the legal framework, showing the inflexibility of statutory law in addressing unprecedented challenges like climate-induced migration. Legislative amendments recognizing the unique plight of climate refugees and accommodating environmental crises within immigration laws are imperative. Adapting legal structures to reflect evolving global challenges is urgent to protect those vulnerable to climate change's impacts.


This article has outlined factors driving climate change, identified primary contributors, and explored potential solutions, primarily focusing on the US. It has delved into the nation's involvement in aiding various refugee groups, highlighting TPS' shortcomings. Addressing these gaps requires legislative changes to include climate refugees, setting a precedent for other nations. The most practical approach involves redefining the refugee definition to encompass these individuals.


As previously detailed in the background, modifying legislation to grant refugees access to secure shelters encounters substantial obstacles. Moreover, the politicization of core climate change matters further complicates the process of revising the TPS. However, envisioning a scenario where discussions arise about amending the TPS to accommodate a broader scope of refugees, a crucial consideration revolves around introducing an additional subsection. This addition would serve as an exception clause under the TPS. For instance, while the TPS currently acknowledges environmental disasters as a basis for protection, it requires that the effects of these disasters be temporary. The best possible solution for this can be, under the TPS, to add an exception subsection that states in the “(b) Designations” section.


The Original being:

"(iii) the foreign state officially has requested designation under this subparagraph; or”


And the Proposed amendment being:

"(iii) the foreign state officially has requested designation under this subparagraph, and

(iv) small island nations grappling with the incapacity to maintain their livelihoods due to climate change-induced rising sea levels or encountering the submergence of their territories due to climate change and rising sea levels are enduring irreversible consequences; or”


This proposed adjustment may cover a limited, specific group from the previously discussed small island nations grappling with severe consequences of climate change. However, revising the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to encompass refugees experiencing irreversible harm due to climate change presents numerous potential challenges. The primary issue revolves around the interpretation and definition of "temporary" within the existing framework. Originally intended to provide temporary sanctuary to individuals facing short-term crises like armed conflict or natural disasters in their home countries, altering this structure to accommodate those from small island nations enduring permanent environmental devastation due to climate change requires redefining the concept of "temporary." This endeavor involves a significant risk of facing political and legislative obstacles. Modifying immigration-related laws in the United States typically involves intricate legislative procedures that necessitate bipartisan agreement.


The politicization of climate change itself complicates the passage of any climate-related legislation. Extending the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to include permanent climate refugees raises concerns regarding the duration and scope of protection. Defining specific conditions for individuals from sinking or uninhabitable island nations to qualify for protection becomes complex. Setting criteria that distinguish between temporary and permanent crises, fairly and administratively, presents a significant challenge. Additionally, expanding the TPS could burden government agencies responsible for its implementation and oversight. Managing applications, reviews, and ongoing assessments of refugee status might require substantial administrative restructuring and resource allocation.


There are also potential concerns about establishing a precedent for other forms of permanent crises or environmental degradation. Determining which crises warrant TPS under an expanded definition could spark debates about long-term environmental degradation or slow-onset disasters seeking similar recognition and protection. Balancing the moral imperative to address irreversible harm from climate change with the practical and legal complexities of amending the TPS presents formidable challenges that require careful consideration and thorough deliberation.


Rectifying the challenges surrounding aid for climate refugees necessitates a comprehensive approach rooted in multidisciplinary research and nuanced policy development. Future research should prioritize an in-depth examination of legal frameworks to adapt existing legislation without causing controversy. This involves extensive comparative analyses of international laws, identifying gaps, and proposing amendments tailored to address climate-induced displacement. Collaboration between legal experts, environmental scientists, policymakers, and humanitarian organizations is crucial to designing comprehensive policies outlining criteria for recognizing and supporting climate refugees without sparking contentious debates. Initiatives should also focus on enhancing international cooperation by establishing clear guidelines and mechanisms within global forums like the United Nations. These frameworks should promote burden-sharing among nations, encouraging collective responsibility in safeguarding and resettling climate refugees.


Drafting legislation specifically aimed at addressing the challenges faced by climate refugees can profoundly shape global accountability toward these vulnerable groups. Such a law would serve as a significant precedent, showcasing a proactive stance from influential global powers like the United States. By explicitly recognizing the difficulties encountered by climate migrants and establishing legal mechanisms for their protection and assistance, this legislation could establish a standard for other nations to emulate. It would underscore the urgency and severity of the crisis caused by climate-induced displacement, compelling other countries to reassess their roles and obligations in aiding and sheltering climate refugees. This could foster a more collective global response, encouraging nations to collaborate and share the responsibility of assisting those displaced by climate change.


The United Nations (UN) plays a crucial role in steering global action on climate migration. Leveraging its platforms and international forums, the UN can amplify the significance of such legislation and advocate for its adoption worldwide. It can facilitate discussions, promote cooperation among member states, and advocate for comprehensive frameworks addressing the legal, ethical, and humanitarian aspects of climate-induced migration. The involvement of the UN could also standardize guidelines and mechanisms for managing climate migrants, fostering a more coordinated and consistent approach among nations. This could minimize discrepancies in how countries handle these issues and ensure a fairer distribution of responsibility. Scientific research into climate models, identifying vulnerable regions, and predicting potential displacement is vital for policymakers. This empirical data will offer crucial insights and aid in crafting effective intervention strategies.


Educational campaigns and advocacy efforts aimed at the public and policymakers are essential. Raising awareness about the predicament of climate refugees, emphasizing the moral obligation to act, and dispelling misconceptions can garner support for less controversial legislative changes. Community engagement is crucial too; involving affected communities in policy development ensures that proposed laws align with their needs and realities, reducing controversy. Equally important is building the capacity of humanitarian organizations and legal institutions to handle climate migration. Training programs focused on implementing laws, supporting affected populations, and offering sustainable solutions can mitigate controversy by ensuring the effective implementation of new legislation. Finally, ethical discussions and moral frameworks should guide legislative decisions. Aligning policies with principles of justice, fairness, and shared responsibility enables policymakers to navigate controversy and create legislation that upholds humanitarian values while meeting the needs of climate refugees.


Nonetheless, it's crucial to create measures for refugees facing prolonged challenges due to climate change. As discussed earlier concerning the difficulties in adjusting the TPS for enduring scenarios, there's a chance to consider altering the Immigration Act of 1990. This potential revision might include integrating a permanent provision to support individuals impacted by climate change.




As we contemplate the impending submergence of low-lying island nations, similar to the plight of the Maldives, a harsh truth confronts us: these once paradisiacal havens are facing extinction due to the reckless emission of greenhouse gasses. This study has delved deeply into this critical issue, revealing significant gaps in safeguarding individuals grappling with statelessness brought about by climate change. Through an exploration of the vast impact of greenhouse gasses, identification of major contributors, and scrutiny of the United States' accountability, this research emphasizes a moral, ethical, and legal imperative. The United States, historically a significant polluter, shoulders a monumental responsibility in providing refuge to those severely affected by climate change. Yet, an analysis of current policies, particularly the Temporary Protected Status (TPS), exposes the inherent limitations in offering aid to those confronting permanent displacement from sinking islands. The stark disparity between the temporal nature of TPS and the enduring plight of these climate refugees urges immediate legislative amendments or the creation of a new program under the Immigration Act of 1990.


Throughout this investigation, the moral urgency to address the predicament of climate refugees echoes resoundingly. Ethical considerations, rooted in shared humanity and redressing historical imbalances, demand robust legislative action. Legal obligations, grounded in principles of justice and human rights, call for an urgent response to bridge the gap between existing policies and the plight of those teetering on the brink of statelessness. As this article concludes, it implores policymakers, legislators, and global entities to acknowledge their roles in rectifying this humanitarian crisis. Embracing this responsibility entails not only legislative changes but also a shift in acknowledging the urgency of climate-induced migration. Furthermore, this research paves the way for further study, advocating for collaborative efforts across disciplines, enhanced global cooperation, and ethical considerations to foster innovative, inclusive, and less contentious legislative solutions. In essence, the looming crisis faced by climate refugees demands immediate action and worldwide solidarity. Pursuing legislative remedies aligned with moral, ethical, and legal obligations will not only shield those at risk of statelessness but also serve as a beacon of hope for a fairer and more compassionate world in the face of the climate emergency.



[1]Immigration Act of 1990

[2] 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Art 1 (2), read in conjunction with the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees

[3] Mattoo, Aaditya, Aaditya Mattoo, and Arvind Subramanian. Equity in Climate Change : An Analytical Review / Mattoo, Aaditya. Washington, D.C: The World Bank, 2010.

[4] UNHCR; H.R. Lallemant, ‘L’Apatride Climatique et la Disparition d’États dans le Pacifique Sud’ (2009) 15 Revue Juridique Polynésienne 77, at 90 et seqq.; and the Report of the UN Secretary-General, Climate Change and its possible security implications, UN Doc. A/64/350 of 11 September 2009, at 20 et seq.

[5] United States Code: Immigration and Nationality, 8 U.S.C. §§ -1483 Suppl. 5 1952

[6] Kälin, notes that the laws of the island state which, according to Art 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, determine who its citizens are, could continue to be applied, for example to newborn children that would be registered abroad at a consulate of the island state.  

[7] UNHCR, Climate Change and Statelessness

[8] UNHCR, The Concept of Stateless Persons under International Law, Summary Conclusions, Expert meeting organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Prato, Italy, 27–28 May 2010.

[9] Grote Stoutenburg, Jenny. Disappearing Island States in International Law / by Jenny Grote Stoutenburg. Leiden ; Brill Nijhoff, 2015.



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