Do weather shocks over food producing regions in developing countries affect asylum applications?

Our guest Wolfram Schlenker will address this question in a public lecture.

The European Union has seen an unprecedented wave of immigration in 2015, as part of a larger surge in migration across the Mediterranean Sea that started in 2014. Wolfram Schlenker and his colleagues investigate the role of weather shocks in global distress-driven migration to the European Union in 2000-2014, i.e., preceding the recent crisis. They find that weather shocks in agricultural regions in developing countries around the globe caused increased emigration towards the European Union as measured by asylum applications recorded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Weather measures averaged using population weights instead of the agricultural growing area or over the entire year instead of the growing season show no significant relationship, suggesting that the effects on agricultural areas are the key channel. There is a surprisingly robust nonlinear relationship: temperatures that deviate from the moderate optimum that is optimal for agriculture, i.e., are either too cold or too hot, lead to an increase in the number of asylum applications, especially into the richer member states of the European Union. Schlenker and his colleagues use these results to conduct a thought experiment on what will happen to asylum applications under a warming climate, and find that they are likely to increase significantly.

Wolfram Schlenker is Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York. Currently, he serves as research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Environmental and Energy Economics Program and the Centre for Economic Research in Mannheim. He holds a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Engineering and Management Sciences from the University of Karlsruhe, as well as a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University. His research interests include the economics of climate change with a focus on the effects of changing weather conditions on agricultural output. More recently, he started looking at the link of changing climate (e.g., more frequent weather shocks) and migration.

You are cordially invited to the lecture!

Date and time: 12 July 2017, 17:00-18:00
Location: ETH Zurich, Main Building, HG D 5.2

More Information can be found at

The public lecture is organized by the World Food System Center of ETH

Wolfram Schlenker will be guest of the AECP group from June 26 till July

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About Robert Finger

I am Agricultural Economist and head of the Agricultural Economics and Policy Group at ETH Zurich. Group Website: Private Website: