From droughts to floods: climate change and migration in Peru

02/10/2021 - Too much, too little water: People in Peru are increasingly experiencing climate extremes. If climate impacts like water-related hazards continue to accelerate, more climate-induced migration and severe pressure on people’s well-being could be the consequence. These are the key results of a comprehensive report by a team of natural and social scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that was presented today during a joint event.
From droughts to floods: climate change and migration in Peru

The extensive report offers a first-of-its-kind, systematic review of links between climate-related hazards and mobility in Peru’s three main topographical zones (coast, highlands, and rainforest). “We found the strongest link between hazards and mobility in the Peruvian highlands”, states Jonas Bergmann, scientist at PIK and lead author of the 160 pages PIK-IOM report. “People are already migrating within the country due to climate impacts. More than 9 million people are exposed to heavy rains, floods, flash floods and landslides, and almost 3.5 million to droughts. Worsening climate impacts will make it even harder for Peruvians to adapt where they live; simultaneously, migration in dignity that preserves people’s well-being will become more difficult to achieve.”

Based on their research, the scientists from PIK concluded with two possible long-term scenarios: In a climate crisis “with brakes applied” – global warming is limited to 2°C by 2100 – climate impacts in Peru would add severe stress on migration patterns; however, it would allow for more time and options for adaptation. By contrast, a “full speed” climate disaster – high emissions resulting in temperature increases of 4°C or even more by 2100 – could cause extremely severe climate impacts in Peru, possibly rendering parts of the country uninhabitable. These impacts would include a near-complete melt-off of glaciers, sea-level rise of up to 0.7 metres in conjunction with more frequent El Niño events, as well as extreme heat stress in the Amazon Basin combined with a rainforest dieback risk. These threats could arise simultaneously, result in parallel disasters, and trigger migration and displacements of an unprecedented scale.

In view of these possible threats, the report underlines how important a clear understanding of climate migration patterns is and that the topic requires integration in adaptation policies and planning. PIK scientists from the East Africa Peru India Climate Capacities (EPICC) project have been actively working with partners at the Peruvian Ministry for the Environment and others to feed the results of the report into current policy developments, such as Peru’s Plan of Action on Climate Migration and its National Adaptation Plan.

During today’s presentation, PIK Director Johan Rockström underlined the high relevance of the study: “The report puts the evidence on the table: In Peru we are seeing the impacts of how climate change and ecosystem degradation amplify the risks of human displacement and migration, occurring already now at 1.2 degree Celsius of global warming.”

Article and additional links:

Jonas Bergmann, Kira Vinke, Carlos Fernandez Palomino, Christoph Gornott, Stephanie Gleixner, Rahel Laudien, Anastasia Lobanova, Josef Ludescher & Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (2021): Assessing the Evidence: Climate Change and Migration in Peru. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM): Potsdam and Geneva.

Full study

Policy brief

Spanish version of the full study 

Spanish version of the policy brief 


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