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TIME MAG: The Culprit Behind Trump’s Border Emergency? ‘Climate Change’ – Labels them ‘climate refugees’

February 22, 2019
President Donald Trump is expected to convene a new panel that will likely undermine the expert consensus that climate change threatens national security.

But experts say that move is at odds with his recent declaration of a national emergency at the U.S. border, where thousands of the Central American migrants have arrived after fleeing the effects of climate change.

“Yeah, they’re economic migrants, but they’re really climate refugees,” says Robert Albro, a researcher American University who has studied the effects of climate change in Latin America. But “the politics around this is so toxic that it’s unlikely to have any kind of productive forward motion in the foreseeable future.”

Trump’s new panel underscores a fundamental irony at the center of the Administration’s treatment of two complex challenges facing the U.S. today: neither new migrant caravans nor climate change can be prevented with a stalwart commitment to an “America First” agenda. Instead, both issues require precisely the kind of international cooperation and global interdependency that Trump routinely decries.

The fact that climate change is one of several primary drivers behind global migration is not controversial among experts.

Researchers and development officials have documented in recent years a slew of climate risks facing Central America, particularly Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. A 2016 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization showed 1.6 million people suffering from food insecurity in the region as a result of climate-change related drought, which has left rural and impoverished communities the most vulnerable. Throughout the region, the effects of climate change have made crops unprofitable, driving farmers into cities, and eventually toward the U.S. Thousands more Central Americans have suffered from malnutrition and an inability to feed their children.

“They usually don’t go after the first drought,” says Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin. “But when the drought comes back and they don’t have many any more savings, they have do something.”