Climate Change and Mass Migration: It’s not a hypothetical, it’s already happening

BY: Abdiel Razo, Communications Associate

During the last week of September, the UN had its 2019 Climate Summit to address what is increasingly becoming the greatest threat to life on earth. Millions of young people that same week demanded action, such as activist Greta Thunberg who delivered a powerful speech at the UN outlining the little time we have left. Among the many challenges that environmental change and destruction will bring, human migration will be severely impacted. In fact, this is already being seen with Bahamian survivors of hurricane Dorian seeking refuge in the United States. The greatest moral crisis of our time is quickly becoming a reality.

As climate change progresses, those most affected will be indigenous communities and communities of color. The World Bank reports that 140 million migrants from Latin America, Sub Saharan Africa, and South-East Asia will be forced to leave their homes because of soil degradation, drought, and ecological destruction. This is alarming, but the US government has known this for years and has been preparing in a way that is counterintuitive. A report by the Department of Homeland Security in 2012 saw the greatest threat of global warming as not being the inevitable conflicts for resources or the need for humanitarian assistance but “securing and managing our borders.” Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration has increased militarization of the border using this same logic, giving ICE $155 million of disaster relief money. The country that is the biggest carbon polluter is vilifying the victims of its own actions. 

Climate change will impact us alland communities that are the least responsible will feel its effects the most. Indigenous tribes in the Amazon and entire countries like Bangladesh depend on our collective action. Some legislation, like the Green New Deal, offers an opportunity to create a clean economy. However, even the Green New Deal lacks protection for sacred indigenous lands and the demilitarization of the border and abolishing ICE as reported by New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies Josue de Luna Navarro. It is important that we focus on the consequences of climate change as it pertains to migration before it’s too late. Treating those fleeing its effects as the problem and not as victims of indifference and inaction will be the cruelest irony of our age.