Investing in Nature to Reduce Human Migration

Investing $1 in nature-based solutions now will save at least $4 in future costs of climate-related migration.  Where on earth did I get that figure?  The recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) Report entitled : “Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040” should be a MUST READ for anyone concerned about the risks associated with climate change, its impacts on vulnerable populations, and the steps we need to take to mitigate these risks.  Here are a few critical excerpts from the report:

“Key Judgment 3: Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources. Despite geographic and financial resource advantages, the United States and partners face costly challenges that will become more difficult to manage without concerted effort to reduce emissions and cap warming.”

While the report is quite powerful, I found it actually underestimated the impact of how investing in nature locally can help communities become more resilient and self-reliant in a world with a changing climate.   How to improve it?  Lay out a nature-based strategy with actions which are included in the report — dryland agricultural crop production, mangroves restoration and protection, and water resource management through improved landscape management. In addition, significantly expand that list to include regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, restoration, and forest protection to name just a few.

Nature For Justice was created to help communities achieve resilience in the face of the climate change by adopting a host of nature-based solutions.  Key to this process is identifying organizations —  NGOs, communities of faith, businesses, etc. —  that have built trust with local communities (we call them Trust Networks) to rapidly scale the use of natural climate solutions such as forest protection, improved landscape management, and restoration (see Griscom et al 2019).  We act as a bridge between these community-focused organizations and those companies, impact investors, and donors that want to invest in nature and address human needs.

So where did I get the $1 invested now saves $4 of costs later? In the following passage from the NIE report:

The need for investments in adaptation technologies to manage water stress and reduce a potential driver of migration could create expanded markets for advanced technologies, such as water storage and reuse systems. The UN’s Global Commission on Adaptation calculates that a $1.8 trillion investment by 2030 in early warning systems, resilient infrastructure, dryland agricultural crop production, mangroves, and water resource management would yield more than $7 trillion of benefits in avoided costs from climate change effects.

Basically, the UN’s Global Commission on Adaptation’s analysis estimated that an outlay of $1.8 trillion dollars in a set of activities that include investments in a limited set of nature-based solutions could avoid $7 trillion of migration costs if these actions are not taken.  So, investing $1 now saves about $4 of costs later. But, how many more people could we keep in place by expanding our use of nature?  Investing in nature is relatively inexpensive.  If we were to use more of that $1 investment on nature, could we save $5 or $6 of costs later by drastically reducing the number of migrants?  We think so.

A year ago when we started Nature For Justice, I wrote about my experience in the Somali refugee camps many years ago “Help People Where They Are”. The message and need for action have never been greater.


  • Hank Cauley

    An engineer who later got a business degree to achieve social and environmental justice through existing economic structures. He’s started or built many organizations and projects. Hank lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and is an avid bee-keeper.

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