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Immigration leads to Global Warming? Nonsense!
That was the response from a friend over IM when I mentioned the latest anti-immigrant CIS report that foresees immigrants as a major cause of global warming. The report is titled Immigration to the United States and World-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions and available on the CIS website.
Anticipating attacks by the pro-migrant lobby, the report claims to not “blame immigrants” but also not dismiss the large role that immigrants are playing in increasing CO2 emissions worldwide:
Some may be tempted to see this analysis as “blaming immigrants” for what are really America’s failures. It is certainly reasonable to argue that Americans could do more to reduce per capita emissions. And it is certainly not our intention to imply that immigrants are particularly responsible for global warming. As we report in this study, the average immigrant produces somewhat less CO2 than the average native-born American. But to simply dismiss the large role that continuing high levels of immigration play in increasing U.S. (and thus worldwide) CO2 emissions is not only intellectually dishonest, it is also counterproductive. One must acknowledge a problem before a solution can be found.
The issue cuts through the heart of migrant rights and environmental justice. Why is it alright for the United States to export its pollution but not import people from the countries it is polluting? What about travel and tourism, even food exportation from lavish countries to poorer ones–does that not contribute to global warming? Trade liberalization under GATT, NAFTA and CAFTA keeps chipping away at environmental protections, re: Tuna/Dolphin case.
Immigration and Global Warming are not zero-sum games. The equation Immigration ==> Global Warming does not hold up under scrutiny. As a Pacific Islander, I can say for a fact that global warming is directly leading to immigration from the “Third World” (South) to the “First World” (North). Islands like Kiribati and Tuvalu are going under water as a result of emissions by countries such as Australia and the United States (facing lawsuits in the World Court). Developing and underdeveloped countries are facing more climatic variations leading to increased agriculture and crop loss, not to mention devastation from higher magnitude hurricanes that does encourage migration to countries in the North. So instead of a definite immigration –> global warming, we also have a global warming —> immigration.
The argument assumes that if these immigrants stayed in their countries, they would not get the chance to consume like most Americans, and hence not increase their carbon footprint. Is the CIS implying that improving standards of living for people through immigration or development in their own countries leads to global warming so improving their quality of life is wrong? How honorable. It does absolutely nothing to propose solutions to the very real problem of global warming (a fact that right wingers choose to overlook till they can use it against immigration), and is yet another means of immigrant scapegoating.
Furthermore, the report completely looks over the fact that the countries which contribute the most immigrants–legal or illegal–to the United States (India, China, Mexico) are developing countries where consumption rates are likely to explode in the future–another fact that right-wingers always point to themselves when told to rein in consumption by the G-8 nations. Again, the United States can take the lead in this matter and do something about its own consumption rates before it starts blaming population growth for the problem. If we rein in consumption patterns, our ecological footprint decreases and hence population growth–from immigrants or otherwise–becomes a less important issue. (I= PAT, Re: Paul Ehrlich).
For so long the scientists sounding an alarm about global warming were labeled as “Chicken Little” by the right-wing. Now right-wingers are using the arguments by their “Chicken Little” to sound alarms about so-called high immigration? How ironic.
I am not kidding. See this comment by rabid nativist Tom Tancredo:
I have no doubt that global warming exists. I just question the cause and what we can do to ameliorate it. But I wonder why the Sierra Club isn’t going crazy about the environmental aspects of massive immigration into the U.S. The fact is, Americans consume more energy than anyone else, so if a person moves here from another country, they automatically become bigger polluters.
Besides the fact that the assumption overgeneralizes the issue, it’s as ludicrous as saying that since greater gender equality encourages women in developing countries to improve their standards of living, thereby consume more and contribute to the ecological footprint, we must discourage gender equality.
The CIS admits that immigrants pollute less than their American counterparts. And for all we know, importing immigrant lifestyles and scientific innovation–especially by highly-skilled educated migrants–might just help to decrease global warming. For example, Indian migrants are more likely to use economical Japanese imported cars with less emissions than gas-guzzling SUVs.
The mainstream media needs to quit giving the CIS credibility by quoting their anti-immigrant based ‘findings’ and excuses for ‘research’ in actual articles unless it is as farce or satire:
Q: How do you make a conservative believe in global warming?
A: Blame it on immigrants!
Just a sidenote: CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas–so is methane and the production of beef and veal, oil and natural gas, and biomass energy all positively affect methane emissions intensity.