“Haiti is one particular important case, but it is connected to a wider story of the dispossession of Black people, especially in the Caribbean,” Keston K. Perry, a political economist and assistant professor of Africana studies at Williams College, told CNN. “Making the connection between existing inequalities that are linked to colonialism and enslavement of African peoples is important for us to understand how these communities have become particularly vulnerable and exposed to climate change.”
“Making a decision to leave their own country has to be the very last resort,” Perry said. “They are unable to meet the resources, recovery and relief needs on a yearly basis, when they experience calamities like landslides, flooding and hurricanes that we’re seeing happening more frequently — and so we’re going to be seeing more forms of migration.”
A political challenge
The impact of climate change on the US border crisis “should not surprise anyone,” Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico told CNN.
“The National Security Assessment has been clear from the very beginning on this,” Luján said. “The US and our allies have to take the climate crisis seriously in all aspects of this, or everything is going to get worse. The science is clear, we’re seeing it play out in front of our very eyes.”
President Joe Biden recently requested a national intelligence estimate, the intelligence community’s most significant intelligence product, to explore the security implications of the climate crisis, a senior State Department official told CNN.
The official said the concern about a global refugee crisis, triggered by more frequent extreme weather, is “really is the guiding force behind” the request for the report.
“The President wanted to make sure that we have a good understanding and a comprehensive understanding of this challenge,” the official said, speaking about the link between climate change and migration. “It is going to be so massive and we understand that and we want to make sure that we see the ramifications, the consequences, the risks, and also what kinds of policy options exist today that are working well.”
“The United States is not being held responsible, given it is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally,” he said. “It has not shown any form of interest in supporting these people, who are escaping various forms of climate and agricultural crises that are linked to forms of intervention that the US has taken in those countries.”
A spokesperson for the White House told CNN the US has “committed to bold, ambitious climate goals,” including Biden’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
“Simultaneously,” the spokesperson said, “the Biden Administration continues to implement a comprehensive strategy to address the factors that drive people to leave their countries, create legal channels to migrate, create protection for people in the region, reform our asylum system and deter irregular migration.”
The US is a ‘beacon’
Central American countries including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have also been facing life-threatening levels of food insecurity as a result of years-long blistering drought and intensifying storms.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said climate migration isn’t unique to the United States, but it is in the country’s interest to lead since it’s already a destination for people who are fleeing their homelands.
“Like it or not, this beacon — ‘the US-of-A’ — is out there,” Grijalva told CNN. “People see that as a refuge, they see it as a new start, and they see it as an escape, and that force is not going away.”
Even if migrants achieve their goal of settling in the US, they still face impacts of the climate crisis. This summer alone, an unprecedented heatwave killed hundreds in the Northwest, and Hurricane Ida devastated the Gulf Coast and Northeast with flooding. The West is in the grips of a historic drought that has caused water shortages.
Perry said developed nations like the US should expect to see more migrants and refugees attempting to escape intensifying disasters.
“These crises reveal what has been going on beneath the surface in terms of structural inequities,” Perry said. “At the end of the day, given what is happening in Haiti and in other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, we are going to see future events of this kind, especially as the planet warms.”
CNN’s Ella Nilsen and Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.
Source : cnn