In an article published this morning and sitting atop Google News searches for “climate change,” the New York Times claims climate change is the primary reason people are leaving Guatemala and unlawfully entering the United States. According to the Times’ article, titled “The Great Climate Migration,” drought and extreme weather events are making it impossible for Guatemala farmers to continue making a living. In reality, objective crop data show farms in Guatemala are doing better than ever. Climate change is reducing the pressure on Guatemalans to flee their failing nation-state, even with rampant crime, corruption, gang activity, and violence.
The author of the Times article, Abrahm Lustgarten, writes, “Last summer, I went to Central America to learn how people like Jorge will respond to changes in their climates. I followed the decisions of people in rural Guatemala and their routes to the region’s biggest cities, then north through Mexico to Texas. I found an astonishing need for food and witnessed the ways competition and poverty among the displaced broke down cultural and moral boundaries.”
If Guatemalans are lacking food, it is certainly not because of climate change or crop failures. According to official crop data compiled by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as shown in the graph below, Guatemalan crop production is continuing a history of long-term growth. Guatemala crop yields per acre are currently:
- double what they were in 1970 – 50 years of global warming ago
- 50% higher than they were in 1980
- 10% to 20% higher than they were in 1990 and 2000
- enjoying eight straight years of year-over-year improvement from the preceding year
None of this good news matters to the New York Times when they have a refugee causation myth to create and a climate myth to perpetuate. According to the Times article, “it almost never rained” for Guatemala farmers for five years between 2014 and 2019. Moreover, “under a relentless confluence of drought, flood, bankruptcy and starvation, they [Guatemala farmers], too, have begun to leave. Almost everyone here experiences some degree of uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Half the children are chronically hungry, and many are short for their age, with weak bones and bloated bellies.” This is how the Times describes a period of longstanding growth in Guatemala crop production.
And again, even if this misery exists, the Guatemala crop data show the reason is a corrupt, violent political state rather than climate change.