Document Type

Journal Article


The issue of the social geographical dimensions of climate change is timely and important. This paper sets out to explore one example of this: how people living in the Pacific who are most at risk of being made landless by climate change are portrayed in policy discourse, and how high-level international representatives of Pacific nations have responded to these portrayals. At the heart of this is contention over the portrayal of Pacific Island peoples as 'climate refugees'. This paper analyses a number of documents since the 1980s, largely from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that deploy the identity construct of 'climate refugees'. Fieldwork undertaken at the United Nations in New York in 2004 also enabled seven interviews with national ambassadors representing Pacific small island states. Interviews revealed how Pacific ambassadors have responded to the category of 'climate refugees', and positioned themselves in the discursive field surrounding the climate change debate. A poststructuralist framework, drawing on Foucault's ideas of discourse and subject categories provided a means to critically scrutinise and better understand how people from Pacific countries are imagined in the wider, global geopolitical arena, but crucially, how leaders from these nations also construct themselves in relation to climate change and its associated impacts. Crown Copyright © 2009.