Having it Both Ways: Linkages Between Climate Change and Illegal Mexican Immigration

Two items from this morning’s paper should be placed side by side. One is an opinion piece by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, entitled “Who cooked the planet?” The other is an article from the Los Angeles Times about increased immigration from Mexico as a result of climate change.

Krugman’s piece is about the greed and cowardice that have repeatedly killed meaningful action on climate change. One has only to follow the money trail to identify the greedy—mainly the coal and oil industries. But, says Krugman, greed wouldn’t have triumphed by itself. It needed the aid of cowardice. And there, Krugman singles out Senator John McCain, who used to back climate action but switched sides on the issue for no other apparent reason than re-election.

McCain, as we know, is the senator from Arizona, which recently passed draconian legislation to crack down on illegal Mexican immigrants in the state.

The Los Angeles Times piece reports on a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study finds linkages among climate change, crop yields, and cross-border migration from Mexico into the U.S. and predicts significantly higher rates of migration as temperatures rise and Mexican agricultural production declines.

Many Americans still don’t get the connection between Middle Eastern oil and the blood and treasure that we expend to procure it. Similarly, the connection between climate and migration may be slow to sink in. And even if it does, we’ll still be trying to have it both ways. To avoid the consequences of our failed energy policies, we’ll just seal the borders even more tightly and adopt even more draconian measures to round up the illegals and ship them back to their arid and unproductive lands.

“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a situation as complex as climate change. The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.” (James Lovelock in a March 2010 interview with Leo Hickman)

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