Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Climate refugees: global warming will spur migration

Center for American Progress: Debate over comprehensive immigration reform may have stalled last week in the Senate, but there’s one key concern that's just warming up: the exacerbating effect that droughts, severe weather, food shortages, disease, and sea level rises will have on migration.

Worldwide environmental, economic, and social consequences from existing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, even if we were to cease emissions today, will drive migration around the globe. Attention to the migration pressures resulting from global warming should therefore be an essential aspect of a long-term U.S. immigration plan. This will not only focus efforts on helping populations adapt to climate change, but also encourage thought on how to alleviate migration pressures.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross, climate change disasters are already a bigger cause of population displacement than war and persecution. Estimates of climate refugees currently range from 25 to 50 million. And this April, global scientific experts and former U.S. military leaders warned in two reports—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment and the CNA Corporation's “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change”—that the effects of global warming are likely to trigger conflict and mass migrations of affected people.

Large numbers of immigrants to the United States currently come from Mexico and the Caribbean, and with increases in storm intensity, stress on natural resources, and rising sea levels—side effects already affecting these regions—immigration levels will only increase. Northern Mexico’s severe water shortages will drive immigration into the United States despite the increasingly treacherous border terrain. The damage caused by storms and rising sea levels in the coastal areas of the Caribbean Islands—where 60 percent of the population live—will likewise increase the flow of immigrants from the region and generate political tension.

The United States cannot ignore the potentially heightened flow of displaced peoples as it continues to discuss immigration reform. Because we shoulder a large portion of the responsibility for the current levels of global warming pollution in the atmosphere, we have a moral responsibility to invest in solutions that will help ourselves and the world—particularly poor countries—adapt and prevent the growing implications of climate change…

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