In one of its more hysterical articles in some time, Newsweek asserts that global warming is turning vulnerable countries into “barren wastelands,” which, in turn, will trigger a mass exodus of new refugees.
Referencing a recent study published in Science, Newsweek warns in its most recent issue that refugee applications in the European Union could “triple” because of climate change, causing a rise of “188 percent” in asylum applications to the European Union.
The inevitable conclusion, of course, is that first-world nations must lose no time in doing something “significant” to curb fossil fuel use.
Establishing direct links between climate change and migration, “like skyrocketing asylum applications and temperature,” can be difficult because of the vast number of variables involved, Newsweek concedes, while pointing to “the influence of drought in the years-long Syrian conflict, New Zealand’s recent proposal to create a visa category for climate refugees and the United Nations’ recent recognition that climate change can contribute to displacement within countries and internationally.”
This Science study examines climate data from 2000 to 2014, prior to the recent surge of refugees into Europe during 2015 and 2016.
Based on 14 years of weather data and asylum applications in the European Union from 103 countries, “researchers Anouch Missirian and Wolfram Schlenker of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs found that asylum applications could skyrocket by as much as 188 percent under a business-as-usual climate scenario in which we don’t make major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Newsweek reports.
The models used by the researchers attempt to establish a correlation rather than causality, yet this does not stop them from inferring causality anyway. Moreover, the methodology employed fails to take into account other key elements affecting migration, such as the pull factor from receiving nations and changing patterns of conflict, which the authors recognize as somewhat awkward.
“It’s not like the weather itself necessarily, maybe, makes people leave,” admits Schlenker, international and public affairs professor at Columbia. “It’s most likely because there’s conflict or something else.”
Linking migration resulting from conflict can be “problematic,” Schlenker said.
The researchers attempt the Herculean task of predicting asylum applications in the E.U. based only on projected future temperatures.
“Under a moderate emissions scenario, applications for asylum would increase by 28 percent by the end of the century,” Newsweek reports. “Under a high emissions scenario, where we don’t make significant changes to our fossil fuel use, applications could increase by 188 percent—nearly tripling.”
With climate change, heat waves could happen more regularly, Newsweek warns. “It might be an intensification effect. … The result might actually be more dire than what we’re predicting, meaning more additional refugees,” Schlenker says.
If readers find these predictions disturbing, they may wish to recall that it was Newsweek that carried the notorious article in 1975 predicting catastrophic global cooling. Although the content was the opposite of what they are saying today, the doomsday tone was identical.
“There are ominous signs that the earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth,” began the article titled “The Cooling World.”
The article went on to chronicle in surprising detail which nations would be most affected by global cooling, notably Canada, the USSR, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina, and Indonesia.
“Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions,” Newsweek asserted. “But they are almost unanimous in their view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic.”
To its credit, Newsweek has remained on the cutting edge of climate panic, determined never to let a good apocalyptic story slip through its fingers.
And although their predictions contradict one another, one can only admire Newsweek’s consistent belief that humanity is always on the edge of disaster.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome