Mexico 2080: Global Warming Leads to Mass Migration

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    Climate change could have disastrous consequences for Mexico. Researchers at Princeton University have conducted a quantitative study linking climate change, crop yields, and migratory patterns for the country. The results are shocking. In the absence of efficient adaptation mechanisms, grain and wheat yields will drop between 39 to 48 percent by 2080. Such a development would spell doom for a large part of Mexico's agricultural sector, on which over half the country's population is dependent. The study estimates that such declines in agriculture would result in a 2 to 10 percent increase in the number of emigrants. Assuming that the population stays constant at about 110 million inhabitants, 1.4 to 6.7 million additional refugees would result because of the impacts of climate change alone.

    For some time now researchers and policy makers have been warning of a potential rise in refugee movements and in the number of "climate refugees” or “climate migrants”, especially from the countries of the global south. However, existing estimates about the number of people forced to leave their homes by the year 2050 due to droughts, floods, or other negative impacts of rising temperatures were often not based on hard data.

    Although the results of the study cannot simply be extrapolated to other regions, they do provide important pointers for several (primarily developing) countries, where climate change is expected to lead to declining crop yields. The study also highlights that the rate of migration and the willingness to migrate can be decreased through policy measures targeted at the agricultural sector - e.g., the introduction of climate-resistant seeds. The study by Oppenheimer, Feng, and Krueger does not merely highlight the need to implement CO2 abatement and adaptation strategies, it also provides a tangible basis for obtaining a clearer picture of the challenges that climate change and migration may pose in the future. (Stefanie Schäfter)

    The full report by Shuaizhang Feng, Alan B. Krueger, and Michael Oppenheimer Linkages among climate change, crop yields and Mexico–US cross-border migration can be downloaded here.

    Please find more information concerning climate change induced influences on food security and a broad database here

    Published in: ECC-Newsletter, October 2010