Drought hits Central America: as predicted?

Four years ago an eminent climate researcher named Michael Oppenheimer at Princeton published a study predicting that climate change would increase the chance of a devastating drought hitting Mexico. He warned that it could drive farmers from their fields and send them across the border looking for work. 

a new study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences appears to establish a coming (and possibly a present) link between global warming and illegal immigration from Mexico,..the study led by atmospheric science Prof. Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University and co-written by scientists from China’s Shanghai University and the U.S. Treasury Department, the more global warming dries out farms and water supplies in Mexico, the more Mexicans will head to this country.

The Oppenheimer study predicts anywhere between 1.4 million and 6.7 million current Mexican farmers and farmworkers will emigrate north between now and 2080 solely because their farmlands become too parched to produce.

I actually reported that story from the American Geophysical Union that year (although I can't seem to find it on this site — perhaps I forgot to post it). Regardless, it comes to mind as I read this item from Reuters today:

A severe drought has ravaged crops in Central America, and as many as 2.8 million people are struggling to feed themselves, the United Nations World Food Program said Friday. The drought, which is also affecting South America, has been particularly hard on southern Guatemala, northern Honduras and western El Salvador. Guatemala declared a state of emergency after 256,000 families lost their crops. Farmers growing peas, green beans and broccoli estimate that they will lose 30 to 40 percent of their crops. Jesús Samayoa, a farmer in Jutiapa, Guatemala, said, “I am 60 years old, and this is the first time I have seen a crisis like this.”

Perhaps it's time to follow up with Prof. Oppenheimer. Although the child immigration crisis of last month seemed driven more by gang violence and threats of murder than drought, one has to wonder if there could be a connection, given that most of the immigrants were coming from Honduras and Guatemala.  

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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