Climate change is a main factor motivating migrants to flee Central America for the U.S. border, a CNN report said Tuesday.
CNN investigative reporter John Sutter interviewed multiple families and officials during a four-day trip to western Honduras, concluding that climate change has been an “overlooked” factor motivating the migrant caravan and others like it. He argued that the issue of climate change complicates the narratives that migrants are fleeing violence in their home countries or seeking jobs in the U.S.
“More than two million people are at risk for hunger” in the “dry corridor” of Central America, which includes parts of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua that have been hit with an unusual drought for the past five years, CNN reported.
“Studies have not definitively tied this particular drought to climate change, but computer models show droughts like the one happening now are becoming more common as the world warms,” the report said. “Thousands have risked their lives to flee these circumstances.”
Mr. Sutter acknowledged that violence and extreme poverty do play a factor in the migrant crisis, but that pollution from more industrialized countries like the U.S. is worsening cyclical weather events like droughts and floods and making the region less hospitable to farmers.
“The United States, which is the destination for so many migrants fleeing Honduras, bears outsize responsibility for global warming,” Mr. Sutter wrote. “Cumulatively, the nation has done more to cause climate change since the Industrial Revolution than any other. The nation that’s become a destination for so many migrants — a beacon of opportunity and hope — is contributing to the conditions forcing some people to abandon home.”
Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at The University of Texas at Austin, told CNN that climate change acts as a tax on farmers and that the added costs are forcing them to flee north.
“Climate change is reducing [crop] yields,” she said. “It’s like a tax. It’s making things harder for people and industries that rely on weather stability. Sometimes climate change can push people over the edge and make it impossible [to survive]. We see that with the coffee industry. That last added cost is making the business model unsustainable — and pushing people to migrate.”
Lisandro Mauricio Arias, mayor of the Honduran town Copán Ruinas near the Guatemalan border, said he’s seen an estimated 30 percent drop in population due to the drought.
“When analyzing precipitation levels, we can see they have changed a lot — which is really alarming,” he said. “Problems associated with drought will get worse.”
Mr. Arias urged the U.S. to show some compassion to the thousands-strong migrant caravan camped out in Tijuana, Mexico, where many are waiting to seek asylum in the U.S.
“We respect the decisions the United States is making,” the mayor said. “It’s their country, and they have the right to defend it. However, I believe they need to take into consideration the human factor — what is humanity? These people are not trying to meddle. [They are] looking for an opportunity to survive.”
Mr. Sutter said there are at least two solutions to easing the migrant crisis, per a 2018 report from the World Bank.
“First, cut carbon emissions, which is the aim of the Paris Agreement” that Mr. Trump pledged to abandon, he wrote. “Second, help would-be migrants adapt to the warmer world. The international Green Climate Fund, which President Trump promised to walk away from, too, has approved projects to help farmers in Central America to become more productive, blunting the force of drought.”
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