Sorry, The Hill, Climate Change Isn’t Intensifying Migration

The Hill published an article Monday claiming human-caused climate change is responsible for at least some of the tidal wave of illegal immigrants flowing daily over the U.S. Southern border. The available evidence falsifies this claim.

Climate conditions did not change between the Trump and Biden presidencies. The present flow of illegal aliens entering the United States is a result of President Joe Biden’s shift to more welcome immigration policy from that enforced by President Donald Trump, not climate change.

The Hill article is titled “How to manage migration intensified by climate change.” “While some of the current migrants are fleeing violence and may qualify for protection under our asylum law, it is becoming clearer that at least part of what we are seeing at our Southern border is the result of climate change,” asserts The Hill. In particular, the article cites crop-damaging drought in Guatemala and El Salvador, along with hurricanes striking Honduras, as proof that human-caused climate change is forcing people to flee their homelands.

Contrary to the impression left by The Hill, history shows it is not uncommon for hurricanes and tropical storms to strike Honduras. Data show Honduras is “brushed or hit” by hurricanes every 4 years on average. Some decades have been busier than others. For example, hurricane strikes were especially common during the 1890’s, the 1930s, the 1960s, and the 1970s—each cooler time periods than now. Among the worst hurricanes ever to strike Honduras came in 1934, nearly 90 years of climate change ago.

As reported in Climate at a Glance: Hurricanes, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 Interim Report observes there is “only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.” The U.N.’s observation is reflected in the figure below, showing global hurricane and tropical storm frequency since 1970.

Some Hondurans may have decided to leave for America after having their homes destroyed or lives disrupted by hurricanes that struck in 2020. However, there is no evidence climate change caused, exacerbated, or made those storms more likely.

The Hill’s claim that drought in El Salvador and Guatemala is causing crop failures, forcing many of its people to illegally migrate to the United States, is equally false. The IPCC reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere during the past 70 years, and it reports having “low confidence” about any negative trends globally.

Crop production can vary greatly from year to year, but the data show crops are becoming more productive and easier to grow as the Earth continues its modest warming. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) provides detailed data on crop production in throughout the world. According to UNFAO data, Guatemalan crop yields have been consistently improving throughout the past 50 years.

Figure 1: Guatemala cereal crop yields per acre by year. Source: The Global Economy, reporting data supplied by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

As the chart below shows, El Salvador is enjoying similarly increasing crop yields as the earth modestly warms.

Figure 2: El Salvador cereal crop yields per acre by year. Source: The Global Economy, reporting data supplied by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Millions of people flee their homelands each year, but the causes remain what they have always been – war, political persecution, and poverty rather than climate change. Refugees now, as they always have, are leaving their countries in pursuit of a better life for their children and themselves. The Hill is wrong to say otherwise.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute's Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland's Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.

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  1. More global warming BS. The administration is about to destroy the economy based on that false assertion.

    How much do you earn for asserting the earth is modestly warming? And who pays you?

    Since when has it been warming and will it continue?

    Please define your time period otherwise it’s just propaganda something you probably already know.


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