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Climate change could affect migration to the U.S., new study says

July 26, 2010 | 12:24 pm

Climbing temperatures are expected to raise sea levels and increase droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires.

Now, scientists are predicting another consequence of climate change – mass migration to the United States.

As many as 7 million Mexicans could migrate to the U.S. by 2080 as climate change reduces agricultural production in Mexico, according to a new study being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Given the climate projections are correct, gradually over the next several decades heading toward the end of the century it becomes one of the more important factors in driving Mexicans across the border, all other things being equal ,” said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.

Of course, Oppenheimer acknowledged, all things will not remain equal. Changes could occur in U.S. immigration and border policy or in Mexico’s economy and its reliance on agriculture. But this is the first step in studying the effect of global warming on migration, he said.

-- Anna Gorman