Biden Administration Claims ‘tens of millions’ climate refugees coming, history shows otherwise

Recently Yahoo News ran an article, titled “Biden administration report foresees ‘tens of millions’ of climate change refugees in the coming decades. The report and Yahoo New’s story covering it claims climate change is behind illegal immigration, forcing millions of people to flee their countries. This is false. Data on food production, extreme weather, and sea level rise indicate climate change is not behind the rise in immigration.

Yahoo News writes:

A new Biden administration report paints a grim picture of the climate change future in which “tens of millions” of people are “likely to be displaced over the next two to three decades” because of the effects of rising global temperatures.

In April, Vice President Kamala Harris identified climate change and its effects as one of several root causes that have increased migration from Central America to the United States.

“We are looking at extensive storm damage because of extreme climate, we’re looking at drought in an area in a region where agriculture is one of the most traditionally important basis for their economy, we’re looking at what’s happening in terms of food scarcity as a result of that and, in fact, incredible food insecurity, which we used to call hunger food insecurity,” she said.

Each of these claims is false.

Vice President Kamala Harris stated, “We are looking at extensive storm damage because of extreme climate…”

Harris conflates weather events like “storm damage” with climate. NASA defines it for kids as: “Weather is a specific event—like a rainstorm or hot day—that happens over a few hours, days or weeks. Climate is the average weather conditions in a place over 30 years or more.” Clearly, you can’t honestly compare the two. This is such a basic understanding that it is clear she’s simply using it as a political tool.

Then she claims “drought and food insecurity” in central America will cause migration towards the United States.

This is false. As my associate, H. Sterling Burnett writes in another Climate Realism piece,

The narrative is people are forced to migrate because people in rural areas can no longer grow enough crops to feed their families or make a living. Yet, crop yields in nearly all migration-prone nations have been steadily increasing, with many setting frequent new records.

Almost all the refugees from North Africa or the Middle East into Europe are coming from regions where food production has increased dramatically in recent decades. The same applies to migrants to the United States from Central America. This is thoroughly documented in Climate at a Glance: Crop Production, as well as in a video-archived panel discussion alongside the United Nations Civil Society Conference in August 2019.

The belief is that immigration will increase with projections of warming, but this is based entirely on computer climate models which the U.N. has recently admitted are flawed. The worst-case scenario can’t happen because the models are wrong.

And then there is history to consider.

In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicted climate change would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010. These people, it was said, would flee a range of disasters including sea level rise, increases in the numbers and severity of hurricanes, and disruption to food production. They even created a map of areas that are most affected, see the figure.

UNEP map, Emmanuelle Bournay. Click to enlarge.

This is what the UNEP originally said:

Fifty million climate refugees by 2010. Today we find a world of asymmetric development, unsustainable natural resource use, and continued rural and urban poverty. There is general agreement about the current global environmental and development crisis. It is also known that the consequences of these global changes have the most devastating impacts on the poorest, who historically have had limited entitlements and opportunities for growth.

There’s only one problem. It never happened. Not a single “climate refugee” ever migrated.

And, UNEP, realizing their prediction was wrong, disappeared the original web page and report in 2011.

Now, a decade later, the same tired unsupportable “climate refugee” claims are being recycled again as a means of scaring people into some sort of political action.

Facts and history simply don’t support these claims.

Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website

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  1. The last real migrations to escape change occurred during the Paleolithic Era, when our ancestors moved into southern Eurasia where the ice sheets were retreating from. That was over 10,000 years ago, during the last glacial maximum. Since the end of the glacial maximum, about 11,700 years ago, the humanity has been living during the Holocene Interglacial, a warming period like many before it, which occurred between glaciations. Geologists have known this for quite some time and it is why, in 1970, they predicted a future return to glaciation in the northern hemisphere. So, rather than expecting a “runaway warming,” caused by humans, that will lead to desertification of the planet (an absurd prediction, as an increase in CO2 would produce more plant life, not less), we should be expecting a global cooling and the next period of glaciation, none of which will have anything to do with human activity. The Holocene is the only current climate change and it has been a fairly stable climate, governed by the solar cycle. As for CO2, atmospheric carbon dioxide has fallen off to only 5% of the atmosphere and and any desertification occurring, if it has anything to do with humans, is from clear cutting of forests. All one need do to see what should be happening in response to increasing CO2 is read up on the Mesozoic Era, when the dinosaurs flourished, the global temperature was much higher than it is today, there was no presence of ice sheets, and prehistoric jungle covered the Earth’s landmasses, even at the poles. Oh, and there were no humans yet, as mammals hadn’t yet appeared. These are facts that everyone with high school education should know (that’s high school as it was between 1950 and 1971). I’m 69 and graduated high school in 1971, thus I count myself as being among those who any semblance of a real education, prior to the deliberate dumbing down of the school system that continues to the present.

  2. One last fact: according to geologists (and, I would imagine, those who were educated prior to 1971), the leading indicators of glacial activity are the presence of polar ice caps and glaciers, both of which are still very much in existence, even after some 12,000 years of melting during the Holocene. The regular summer thawing, which produces what is called “calving” as large chunks of polar ice break off and fall into sea, is annual occurrence that been going on for thousands of years during the Holocene. The alarmists like to show a single photograph of a lone polar bear alledged to be trapped on a chunk of floating ice as its environment melts away, due to “global warming.” Obviously, the alarmists known very little about polar bears, as well as climate, as a polar bear can swim the artic waters for distances of up to twenty miles.

  3. Per, Polar Bears have been tracked to swim over 100 km. Just a fun fact to add to the above point about the is-use of Polar Bears by the Climate Alarmists.


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