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Global warming and urbanization

Higher temperatures are causing people to move from rural areas to cities in the long run. WZB-researchers found this correlation in an analysis of data from 118 countries between 1960 and 2016.

They observed the effect of global warming on urbanization rates to be stronger in poorer and more agriculture-dependent countries as well as in countries in hotter climate zones. These countries are particularly affected when agriculture is impacted, such as by crop failures. They are not urban to begin with, but key public service institutions -such as hospitals- are available almost exclusively in urban areas. The dynamic of rural push factors and urban pull factors causes the ongoing growth of cities. Especially in poorer countries this is not necessarily accompanied by economic growth, therefore climate-induced rural migration becomes a problem for them.

The authors draw two policy recommendations from their findings. First, greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced worldwide to curb the effects of global warming. Second, access to public goods - such as health institutions - should be improved in rural areas of affected countries. They recommend that richer countries support these improvement measures through increased development and technology assistance. Otherwise, increased rural migration in poorer countries will be followed by increased international migration to richer countries, for which cities in poorer countries are important hubs.

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Meierrieks und Helbling
David Ausserhofer/Marc Helbling

Daniel Meierrieks is a research fellow of the Research Unit Migration, Integration, Transnationalization. Marc Helbling is a WZB fellow in the same Research Unit.

The study is freely available via Open Access.
Helbling, M., Meierrieks, D.Global warming and urbanization. J Popul Econ (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-022-00924-y