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Who is the climate‐induced trapped figure?

Ayeb‐Karlsson, Sonja; Baldwin, Andrew W; Kniveton, Dominic; (2022) Who is the climate‐induced trapped figure? WIREs Climate Change , Article e803. 10.1002/wcc.803. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Many will remember the 1990s alarmist narratives of how a human tide of up to a billion climate refugees would flood “our” borders by 2050. By 2011, a new character joined the discourse: the trapped figure. No longer would climatically vulnerable people be forced to move, they could also end up immobile. This review examines the narratives that surround the trapped figure. The article highlights the trapped figure's (i) characterisation, (ii) geography, and (iii) storytellers. The material includes the 2011 Foresight Report, 64 English peer-reviewed journal articles, and seven UNFCCC policy reports. The textual analysis furthers our understanding of the values that shape the meaning of the trapped figure within the wider discursive economy. Out of the 64 articles, 48 located the trapped figure in Asia, while 34 placed the figure in Africa. Meanwhile, the majority of articles—62 in total—were written by scholars based at European research institutes. The study shows that the trapped figure, much as the mythical climate refugee and migrant, is constructed as both a victim in need of rescuing and as an ambiguous security threat. It is ethically problematic that planned relocation was often put forward as an effective tool to “move” the figure out of harm's way. The review also found a range of binary opposites in the discourse on trapped populations, including those of order–disorder, freedom–unfreedom, and victim–savior. This suggests that however well-intentioned the liberal discourse on trapped populations appear, it remains embedded in power relations which demands for critical scrutiny. This article is categorized under: Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Sociology/Anthropology of Climate Knowledge Climate and Development > Sustainability and Human Well-Being Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Perceptions of Climate Change Climate, Nature, and Ethics > Ethics and Climate Change

Type: Article
Title: Who is the climate‐induced trapped figure?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/wcc.803
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.803
Language: English
Additional information: © 2022 The Authors. WIREs Climate Change published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: climate change, climate policy, climate refugees, displacement, human mobility, humanitarianism, immobility, loss and damage, otherness, trapped populations, white saviourism, UNFCCC
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Inst for Risk and Disaster Reduction
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10158379
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