Climate Change Could Cause More Migrants to Go to Europe

A new study indicates that climate change could determine more migrants to go to Europe in the following years. The new study was published on December 21st, restarting the debate regarding one of the most devastating consequences of global warming. Two researchers from the Columbia University have developed this study. They have looked at potential connections between temperature variations in 103 countries and the volume of asylum applications to the E.U. between 2000 and 2014.

Then, they wanted to establish whether there might be an increase in the asylum applications in case the Earth grows warm until 2100. The results of their analysis indicate that the European Union could face an increase of 28% in the number of applications. These estimates were established only in case of “moderate” global warming. In case more severe warming occurs than the E.U. could receive asylum 660,000 more applications every year.

More migrants because of climate change

Wolfram Schlenker is an economist at Columbia University and one of the authors of the new study together with Anouch Missirian. Schlenker indicates that Europe experienced mass crop failures about 300 years ago, leading to increased migration rates. Surprisingly, even nowadays there is still a connection between climate change and migration. These two researchers published their study in Science.

It follows on contested research from 2015 which relied on the potential role of global warming in the crisis in Syria. The study from 2015 indicated that a drought between 2007 and 2010 that affected the Fertile Crescent region triggered the dissolution that followed. Apparently, the drought became more severe because of a warming climate.

In the new study, Schlenker and Missirian do not argue that human-made climate change influences particular migration patterns. However, the study indicates that asylum applications increase as average temperature rises from a climatic optimum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Schlenker argues that they have analyzed each of the 103 countries in the study. They wanted to establish whether the number of applications increases in case the temperatures are colder or hotter than normal.

Researchers revealed that changes in the weather patterns influenced only a small part of the 352,00 asylum applications on an annual basis for the period between 2000 and 2014. However, there is a statistical relationship. The study looked at temperatures in regions used for growing maize, during the growing season. This suggested a possible connection between the desire to migrate to another country and the reduced agricultural productivity.

Other researchers’ opinions

Then, the authors decided to project the number of future asylum applications in the E.U. relying on the predicted rise in temperatures. Schlenker said that this effort implies a high degree of uncertainty since many other factors can also influence asylum applications. Numerous experts and academics revealed their reactions when seeing the results of the new study.

A Stanford researcher, Marshall Burke, said that this is an incredible study on a crucial but “poorly understood topic”. He argues that the link between migration and climate has long been discussed by numerous other scientists. However, there are no other studies which revealed such a clear connection at a broad scale like this study does.

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A big number of migrants

Climate change can affect numerous part of the globe even more, triggering mass migration.

Mike Hulme is a professor of human geography at the University of Cambridge. He argues that he spotted a few flaws in the new study, including the uncertainty of predicting precise numbers of asylum applications. He says that he could not possibly believe the plausibility of their predictions since they make a claim 83 years into the future. Even if the world changes, nobody can know for sure how fast this could happen.

Hulme also argues that the new study tries to simplify the problem of mass migration and it focuses on climate as being the only influencer. Now, he is interested in learning what is the most important factor which influences asylum applications. Migration is a much more complex problem that this study shows it is. They have chosen to reduce the whole problem to a temperature predictor.

Are the numbers accurate?

Michael Werz is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He has also studied the relation between societal upheaval and climate change. He argues that the study reveals important matters, but, unfortunately, it is not the only one. Werz says that it is extremely difficult to establish a causal connection between migratory movements and global warming. Furthermore, it is even more difficult to predict certain numbers of future asylum seekers.

This research reveals that previous asylum seekers represent only 10% of the entire amount of people who migrated during the study period. He says that this matter is pretty complex, but he highlights that more evidence appears, supporting the idea that changing climate will force people to search refuge. Many other studies bring evidence related to how climate influences people’s behavior. Climate is a powerful contributor to numerous migratory movements. However, it could not be the only driver, for sure.

The ongoing European migrant crisis was long debated in many studies by numerous groups of researchers. Several populations around the world have experienced crop failure and drought. This has had a disastrous impact on livelihoods, triggering sectarian conflict. Hence, this leads to mass migration from Northern Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

Scientists predict that this problem is likely to become a nightmare, turning to be even worse. The link discovered between mass migration and temperature fluctuations due to climate change is outrageous. Climate change has been a serious problem for many years now. What the future brings could only be worse. Human-made climate change influences weather patterns all over the world, triggering unprecedented consequences.

Summing up

Climate change appears to become even worse in the following years, as the study predicts. Its effects would be so dangerous that numerous mass migration might occur, in even greater number than we are used to. Hence, Europe might receive a high number of asylum applications while desperate people will try to save themselves from drought and crop failure.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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