Horizon Social Media Analysis


Climate refugees: Island states already affected

Already affecting around 40 island states, mostly located in the Pacific Ocean, climate refugees are not a central issue at COP21. The interest from industrialized countries varies from cold to lukewarm.

66% of Internet users believe that a climate refugee status should be created. According to our figures, a slight majority are aware of the issue, claiming that climate change is making certain areas of the globe impossible to live in. The next highest argument used to support the creation of such a status lies with industrialized countries’ responsibility for climate change. As a consequence, about a quarter of Internet users think that they should be helping the most vulnerable countries.


The same argument is also made by island states, who came to COP21 as a group of 39 to defend their “right to exist”. Consisting mostly of micro-islands located in the Pacific Ocean, like Fiji and Tuvalu, they are already feeling the consequences of climate change with rising waters that could see them disappear in the near future. Speaking with one voice, they aredemanding their special needs be recognized, and that financial help be provided to help them halt climate change migration. They are also demanding, among other things, a more ambitious goal for COP21 that would aim to limit global warming to 1,5°C instead of 2°C over the next century.

Mixed feelings

Industrialized countries, however, have mixed feelings about the creation of this status. According to data collected by COP21Horizon, Japan is most opposed to its creation with only 39% of Internet users in support. Not a surprising figure, given that Japan welcomed only 11 asylum seekers in 2014, from over 5.000 requests.

Mr Loeak, president of Marshall islands

On the other hand, more than 70% of Australian Internet users support climate refugee status, also unsurprising from one of the few countries whose politicians have made a stand on the issue. In the same region, New Zealand was one of the first countries to announce it would welcome climate refugees, although it rejected the first asylum application to be brought before court from a Kiribati citizen in September. On their side, the island states seem to have shifted their focus from gaining refugee status to protecting their land.