As if joblessness and crime weren’t enough to trigger Mexican migration to the United States, a new study shows climate change could drive millions of Mexican farmers across the border.
A reduction in crop yields caused by global warming could mean up to 6.7 million additional Mexicans will emigrate to the United States by 2080, says a study by Princeton University researchers.
The authors say that a 10 percent decline in agricultural productivity would lead two percent of the Mexican population to migrate.
Farmers not surprised by study
Mexican farmers say they are not surprised by the statistic and have already experienced crop loss due to climate shifts. Some farming groups are asking the government to pass measures to prevent agricultural damage and mass migration.
“There is some mapping being done by the Environment Ministry of probable impacts, but if there are no solutions or alternatives implemented to protect the population, people will emigrate,” says Ivan Polanco of the National Association of Farmer Commercial Enterprises.
A climate change bill endorsed by President Felipe Calderón's party and currently before Congress could pressure elected officials to take measures to limit the impact of global warming. But Mr. Polanco believes the government needs to do more to enforce such environmental laws before they can have a true impact.
Already this year atypical rains have destroyed bean harvests in the Pacific Coast states of Nayarit and Sinaloa, while rivers burst their banks and ruined crops in Michoacan, Polanco says. Earlier this month, Hurricane Alex and ensuing rains pounded northeastern Mexico, reportedly killing at least 30 people and destroying crops.
Enedina Perez de la Cruz of the Gulf state of Tabasco says her farming family would have to pick up and leave their orange grove and banana plantation if conditions grew any worse on their small property. Her town of Nacajuca was hit by disastrous floods that left 80 percent of the state under water in 2007 and the Perez family already supplements their farmers’ income by selling crafts.
“If the fields don’t produce, you need to do something else,” says Ms. Perez. “It could mean going to the United States or other places where there is work.”
Already 6.7 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants believed to be in the US are from Mexico, the Reuters news agency reports.
“Our findings are significant from a global perspective given that many regions, especially developing countries, are expected to experience significant declines in agricultural yields as a result of projected warming,” the study’s abstract states.