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Calculating ‘Climate Migrants’: An Emerging Topology of Power

Baldwin, W. Andrew; Waters, Richard


Richard Waters


On what basis can it be said that climate change contributes to human migration? What are we to make of evidence used to construct the relationship between these two epochal phenomena? This paper develops the idea that evidence of the relation between climate change and human migration only ever reflects specific forms of power and authority. Building on the recent quantitative turn in so-called ‘climate migration' research, the paper argues that what we are witnessing today in attempts to quantify climate migrants is neither a revival or repetition of political sovereignty, nor simply a deepening or expansion of biopower. Rather it argues that quantification signifies the early stages of a new topology of power organized around intuitive calculation. The paper develops this claim through an interpretation of gravity modelling, a modelling technique used recently by both the World Bank and the New York Times/ProPublica to calculate numeric estimates of 'climate migrants' through the logic of inference. Drawing on recent discussion in geography on the relationship between calculation, number, and the political, the paper explores what is at stake politically when these numeric estimates circulate as established truths in wider public and political debate.


Baldwin, W. A., & Waters, R. (in press). Calculating ‘Climate Migrants’: An Emerging Topology of Power. Security Dialogue,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 25, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 3, 2024
Journal Security Dialogue
Print ISSN 0967-0106
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Publisher URL

This file is under embargo due to copyright reasons.

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