mckibben4Milo EspinozaGetty Images_migrant Milo Espinoza/Getty Images

Our Responsibility to Climate Migrants

By any moral calculation, the United States should be weighing its responsibilities to Central Americans displaced by climate disasters. And, whether migrants cross international borders or not, it should be US policy to make their journeys as safe and humane as possible.

RIPTON, VERMONT – Last November, as the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever recorded ground to a close, the last two big storms – Eta and Iota – ripped into Central America. A Washington Post reporter covering their aftermath interviewed a Honduran woman named Blanca Costa, who was sheltering beneath a highway overpass. She supported her three daughters by working as a trash collector, and had three horses to pull her garbage cart. Except now the horses had drowned. “I’ll just have to go on foot now,” said Costa, 40, one of about 100 people finding refuge under the bridge. “But it will be more difficult.”

The storms caused massive damage in Central America. According to early estimates, the economic toll in Honduras was equivalent to 40% of the country’s GDP. So, it should not surprise anyone that plenty of people from the region are now on the move.

When climate-driven disasters strike, the vast majority of people don’t need or want to move far. If drought drives a farm out of business, workers usually look for new jobs as near to home as possible. When extreme weather destroys homes, people seek a temporary escape, not permanent relocation. But as adverse climate events become more extreme – and they will – people will need to move farther for longer.

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