Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mexican 'climate migrants' to US predicted to increase

Zoë Corbyn in Nature News: A wave of up to 6.7 million migrants from Mexico could head to the United States to escape the ravages of climate change on crops, say the authors of a new study. The findings are claimed to be the first to thoroughly quantify how shifts in global climate might affect human migration from one region to another.

The study's authors, from Princeton University in New Jersey, say the United States should prepare for the arrival of up to 10% of Mexico's adult population over the next 70 years as a result of falling agricultural productivity due to climate change. According to the Pew Hispanic Centre in Washington D.C., there were 12.7 million Mexican immigrants in the United States in 2008.

But the study has also provoked ire from immigrant-rights advocates, who say the findings could be used to advance anti-immigration causes. In the United States, Mexican immigration is a contentious issue, and tough new immigration laws in Arizona, which borders Mexico, have sparked national debate in recent months.

The latest study is likely to fan the flames, as it warns of exacerbated environmental, economic and social problems that unmanaged and unexpected climate-related migration could bring to both the United States and Mexico. "It would behoove them as scientists to shift their focus," says Lorenzo Cano, associate director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston in Texas, who is an activist for immigrants' rights. "[This is] research that will contribute to the xenophobia that is already running amok in our country today."
Down on the farm

Publishing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,1 environmental scientist Michael Oppenheimer and economist colleagues set out to develop a model that quantitatively predicts the potential size of the problem of mass human migration spurred by climate change. The team focused on cross-border migration from Mexico to the United States as an example….

A pineapple field in Veracruz, Mexico, shot by Jacob Rus, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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