Trump Penalizes Migrants Fleeing Climate Crisis He Ignores
The impacts of climate change do not respect international borders. If they did, it wouldn't be the case that the countries who have done the least to contribute to global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to suffer disproportionately from their effects.
But as climate refugees begin to flee deteriorating conditions, they are already finding that borders very much apply to them.
Many of the immigrants being detained at the southern U.S. border under President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy are fleeing food scarcity brought on by climate change, The Daily Beast reported Thursday.
"We're seeing a new level of desperation," University of Colorado Boulder sociology professor Carrie Seay-Fleming told The Daily Beast. "When you might have seen an adult male leave before their family follows, you see, increasingly, entire families leaving in waves."
Many of those families come from the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where, beginning in 2015, an especially extreme El Niño / La Niña cycle has led to severe drought followed by heavy rainfall, reducing harvests by up to 90 percent and leaving 30 percent of the population food insecure, a UN study found.
"What we're talking about here are changing precipitation patterns," American University Center for Latin American and Latino Studies associate professor Robert Albro told The Daily Beast. "Climate scientists have observed that climate change is exacerbating El Niño and La Niña, so we see radically changing seasonal patterns."
The impacts of these changing patterns are especially harmful to the region because farmers there rely heavily on coffee for cash and maize for subsistence, and neither are resilient in the face of weather that is either too dry or too wet.
Climate causes have been lost in a media narrative about migration that focuses on families or unaccompanied minors fleeing gang or drug related violence, but Seay-Fleming told The Daily Beast that the violence narrative was over-simplified. She said most current migrants crossing the Mexican border are from Guatemala, where economic insecurity is a greater driver of migration than violence, which is more often cited as a motivating factor by those from El Salvador and Honduras.
"Guatemala has the highest poverty rate and the highest food insecurity. It's seeing rates of food insecurity that have never been seen before," Seay-Fleming said.
Both Seay-Fleming and Albro agreed that violence and climate migration were connected, as farmers would first migrate to cities when crops failed, and then be driven north by a lack of opportunity and urban violence. This means they don't always mention environmental factors when asked their reasons for coming to the U.S.
The climate connection adds an extra barb to the cruelty of Trump's hardline immigration policy that, beginning in April, mandated criminally prosecuting migrants crossing the border and separating children from their parents. After public outcry, an executive order signed Wednesday said parents and children would be detained together, but it may still result in family separations, since children can only legally be detained in the U.S. for 20 days, CNN reported.
Since many of the families caught up in these policies are fleeing climate change, it means that they are being doubly punished for a problem the president has washed his hands of, through actions such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris agreement.
The policy also sets a troubling precedent for how the U.S. may deal with even greater climate migrations to come, as Kate Aronoff points out in a piece for In these Times. She cited a 2010 study that estimated that climate change could cause up to 6.7 million people from Mexico alone to migrate elsewhere. Overall, she wrote, scientists estimate that climate change could displace between 25 million and one billion people in the coming decades.
"This week's onslaught of immigration news offers a chilling preview of events that could become all the more likely as the planet warms. At the core of the immigration debate is the question that will come to dominate the climate-defined politics of the 21st century: Who gets to live here and live well?" Aronoff wrote.
Climate Crisis to Uproot Millions in the Coming Decades: Nations Need to Be Ready https://t.co/BIzjRfdD8V… https://t.co/WKqQ1g9XW9— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1513911631.0
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.