Global warming is now being touted as the cause for the millions of refugees flowing from the Middle East.
Scientists revealed on Thursday that they think Europe could see a surge in “climate refugees” after releasing the results of a new study funded by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Science, examined asylum applications in the European Union between 2000 and 2014, from 103 countries around the world. This preceded the spike in migration to Europe from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016, that prompted a political backlash against migrants in many European countries.
“Experts have long warned that rising temperatures and extreme weather could increase the number of people in poor countries seeking refuge in richer, more temperate nations, but the phenomenon has previously only been studied at a small scale,” according to a report in The Washington Examiner.
Global warming increases poverty and hardship elsewhere in the world, according to the researchers, who said of the 15-year period: “We find a statistically significant relationship between fluctuations in asylum applications and weather anomalies.”
They concluded that the number of applications increased the more a country of origin’s average temperature diverged from 68 degrees Fahrenheit — the best temperature for growing crops. Higher temperatures were more likely to increase the numbers than lower temperatures, it was found.
“It’s the first study that draws a link between temperature and international migration on a global scale and finds a link,” said Jacob Schewe, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany who wasn’t involved in the study.
The study goes on to state that there’s a correlation between global warming and the number of asylum-seekers to the EU, warning that weather alone could cause migration to increase by more than a quarter by 2100.
It further predicts that the current rate of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere could cause asylum rates to “almost triple to over a million a year by the end of the century.”
Economic hardship isn’t usually seen as grounds for asylum in most European countries, but the study found an increase in requests being granted to migrants from countries that had experienced weather shocks.
The authors, Wolfram Schlenker and Anouch Missirian, of Columbia University, admitted that their study doesn’t account for other factors — such as the outbreak of conflicts — that may impact asylum applications. They want climate change to be seen as a “threat multiplier,” which can influence other factors that might cause people to abandon their homes, including war, economic stress and famine.
Schlenker noted that the impact of climate change on agriculture may also not be immediate.
“It might be that you have a one-year bad weather shock; but if you have some crops stored, you can basically overcome that,” he told reporters. “But if it gets permanently hot in the future and you never get a good crop again, then you might move.”
Schlenker called the findings a “wake-up” for rich countries that think they are insulated from the worst effects of global warming.
“A lot of people argue that climate impact will mainly hit developing countries, but this shows it will have a big spillover effect,” he said.
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