American Policy: Saving Trillions Part 4: Migration

Part four of the American Policy portion of the Climate Change Policy Series: Act America, act now, sooner than later. Climate change inaction stands to cost Americans trillions of dollars due to loss of biodiversity, economic spillovers, national security, migration, and disease-control. The bottom line: mitigating climate change now and swiftly will save Americans more money than inaction or slow action.

Unfortunately, many of today's American policy makers misuse climate models for short-term gain. These models should be taken with a grain of salt; they are educated predictions of the future that leave out major considerations. One consideration, Migration, would strain natural and governmental resources. Millions of homes will be underwater and many jobs will be lost in agriculture dependent poor nations, all due to climate change. Suffering from famine and environmental expulsion, populations will do as history has always shown - they will move (McCarthy, 2006). As Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has shown, environmental refugees in large numbers are ill received, even if they are law-abiding taxpayers. America was inept to accommodate New Orleans’s displaced population of 400,000; the US surely cannot afford supporting millions of new climate change refugees. "Approximately one billion people worldwide live within a few meters of sea level, (Reuveny, 2005) and the most common estimate of total climate migrants is 200 million people by the year 2050 (Brown, 2008).” Climate immigrants will knock at America's doorstep.

Increased immigration from Latin America is inevitable and is already costly. Large populations from Mexico and the Caribbean will see much hardship as sea level rises water shortages, drought, and increased hurricane severity will result from climate change. It is likely that these populations will head north. US health services and social services would be strained by the influx. Annually health care for illegals costs $73B, and will continue to rise as more immigrants enter the US. Combined with other government services of education and welfare, the costs are high and have always sparked an emotional debate. The US cannot stop providing these services, but they do add to the federal deficit. An average of 470,000 immigrants a year migrated illegally into the United States from the years 2000-2007 (Freeman & Guzman, 2009).

Border protection is costly maintenance. A proposed advanced border fence to stem illegal immigration will cost $49B, not including the billions more required to purchase land. One 70-mile stretch of land resides in the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, which has vowed to fight the fence, will result in costly legal wrangling over many years (SFgate, 2007). The toll on the environment will be great arising from concrete emissions and transportation.

The bottom line: mitigating climate change for protecting against Migration alone could save trillions. The sooner, the cheaper; the best defense is a strong offense. Continuing the American Policy portion of the Climate Change Policy Series, the next post will cover Disease-control (Freeman & Guzman, 2009).

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