The Donald’s anti-immigration rhetoric and ridiculous “policy” prescriptions–discussed here yesterday–have highlighted the resentment and nativism with which far too many of us respond to newcomers to our shores. It’s embarrassing, but hardly unique to America. Just look at the recent international headlines, detailing Europe’s response to the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
In the wake of those mounting conflicts in Europe, the Brookings Institution considered not just the dislocations and social issues involved, but the reasons for human movement across political borders. (Hint: those reasons aren’t likely to abate.)
One “take away” from the lengthy and somewhat abstruse paper:
Consider the potential effects of the recent IPPCC projections of a 4 degree Celsius rise in temperature expected by the end of the 21st century in the absence of aggressive mitigation. Then agricultural lands would be displaced by 1,000 km from the equator and sea level would rise another 70 centimeters by the end of the century, or about 3.5 times the rise in sea level over the past 150 years. This would put in jeopardy the 44 percent of world population currently living within 150 km from the coastline. Abstracting from other likely disastrous side effects (acidification of oceans, loss of biodiversity, possibility of life collapse), can we adapt to such changes? Since 72 percent of the population and 90 percent of world GDP is located on 10 percent of the Earth’s land, there is ample room for people to move if they are allowed to.
Translation: climate change is going to motivate massive movements of people across the globe. We can accommodate that movement physically, but unless something changes current highly protective attitudes about national sovereignty–unless we rethink the reflexive tribalism that currently motivates policies about immigration– political accommodation and assimilation will be much more difficult.