Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Climate migration in Latin America: A future ‘flood of refugees’ to the North?

Alexandra Deprez in New American Media: Latin America bears a combination of factors that may converge to give rise to “hot spots” for mass population movements. Not only is it host to a number of environmental events, but it also possesses conditions such as poverty and an unequal geographical distribution of the population that heighten their vulnerability to these effects.

With well-established migration channels between most Latin American countries and the United States, the manifestations of climate change may have an increasingly stronger impact on South-North human flows in the Western hemisphere. Developed nations such as the United States hold a responsibility for the anthropogenic climate change their industrial activities helped engender….

…Northern Mexico, where 60 percent of arid or semi-arid land suffers from erosion, has over the past few decades seen a decrease in precipitation that has been projected to steadily worsen. A June 2009 report by the United Nations University stated, “Based on Mexican government’s data, approximately 900,000 people left arid and semi-arid areas every year [since the mid 1990s] in part because of their inability to make a living from the land due to excessively dry conditions and soil erosion.”

…Another environmental process that will be intensified by anthropogenic climate change is sea level rise; different analysts have predicted a change of 50 cm to 1.5 meters by the end of the 21st century. It has been widely assumed to be the “climate-process” with the strongest and most direct push effect on migration. Although drawing practically no press coverage, several Caribbean islands are at risk of being partially or completely submerged.

The melting of glaciers is a third process that has been taking place since the industrial revolution, and due to the ever increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it will continue to occur at an accelerated pace….

Circa 1980, a boat crowded with Cuban refugees arrives in Key West, Florida, during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift.

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