Washington Post: Did President Trump’s Ancestors Migrate to the United States Because of Climate Change?
The number of migrants across the world is at a record high — 244 million people left their homes in 2015, according to the United Nations. They were driven by war, dire economic straits, and for some, worsening environmental conditions brought on by climate change.
There’s a growing body of evidence linking migration and climate change, from Pacific island nations being subsumed by the rising ocean,to the drought-wracked Horn of Africa. In a speech this spring, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “as regions become unlivable, more and more people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and to other nations.”
A recent report from Oxfam found that more than 20 million people a year have been displaced by extreme weather events since 2008, mostly in developing countries.
But linking migration to climate change is tricky because the environment is just one of many pressure points, many all happening at the same time. Take the case of northeastern Nigeria, where nearly 2 million people are displaced. Climate change is clearly a factor: Lake Chad, the region’s main water source, has been drying up as the Sahel Desert expands southward.
But at the same time, the Islamic insurgence of Boko Haram has run a brutal terrorism campaign. Rural poverty and food insecurity were already major problems. Economic opportunities are better in the south. So what combination of factors is causing people to leave home?
For any given instance of migration, how can we know the impact of climate change, if at all?