Warming to Swamp US in Mexicans?

By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., July 28, 2010 — Will global warming overwhelm the U.S. with illegal Mexican immigrants? That’s the preposterous claim by three Princeton academicians in an online article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and it has prompted guffaws from among sophisticated readers.

In the article – “Linkages among climate change, crop yields, and Mexico-US cross-border migration” – three Princeton boffins, led by well-known environmental activist Michael Oppenheimer, say that using Mexican population and employment data, reduced crop yields in Mexico caused by climate warming would “induce 1.4  to 6.7 million adult Mexicans (or2% to 10% of the current population aged 15-65 y) to emigrate” to the U.S. by 2080.

Roger Pielke Jr., University of Colorado environmental studies professor and one who believes that mankind is warming the planet, calls the Oppenheimer paper “silly” and the once-prestigious PNAS “a journal getting a reputation for silly science.” In a comment to a Los Angeles Times reporter who gave him an embargoed copy of the article, Pielke said, “To be blunt, the paper is guesswork piled on top of ‘what ifs’ built on a foundation of tenuous assumptions.”

Pielke added,  “To use this paper as a prediction of anything would be a mistake. It is a tentative sensitivity study of the effects of one variable on another, where the relationship between the two is itself questionable but more importantly, dependent upon many other far more important factors.”

In the most devastating comment, Pielke said, “Climate change is real and worthy of our attention. Putting forward research claims that cannot be supported by the underlying analysis will not help the credibility of the climate science community.”

Economist Richard Tol at the Economic  and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland,  commented on Pielke’s blog, “The silly PNAS paper makes three mistakes. First, it confuses decadal weather variability with climate change. Second, it fails to control for other determinants of migration that may well be correlated with weather during the sample. Third, they extrapolate beyond belief.”

In the silly vein, one commenter said, tongue firmly in cheek, “Shouldn’t the precautionary principle apply here ? Why not bring the Mexicans to the USA now, and let them get adjusted? By 2080, their offspring will be Americans. Culture shock is a terrible thing.”

At the same time the silly PNAS article appeared, the Southern Poverty Law Center warned that extreme right-wing, anti-immigration activists “have launched a cynical campaign to recruit environmentalists to their cause by blaming immigrants for urban sprawl, overconsumption, and a host of other environmental problems.” The SPLC report — Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate – describes how the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has been creating false front groups designed to link environmentalism and immigration, including Progressives for Immigration Reform. This, says the report, is “a new organization that purports to represent liberal environmentalists” and is headed by “Leah Durant, an attorney who once worked for the nativist Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR.”

John Tanton is the founder of FAIR. According to the SLPC report, Tanton, “who remains on FAIR’s board, has written about the need to use progressive or liberal environmental organizations as a means of insulating nativists against charges of racism.”

Says Mark Potok, director of the SLPC Intelligence Project: “The key players behind this effort are nothing less than wolves in sheep’s clothing. Environmentalists should not fall for this canard. These are hard-line nativists, some of whom have ties to white nationalists, and their primary interest is to radically restrict Latino immigration. Preservation of the environment is hardly their real priority.”