An earlier round of climate effects may have set the stage for a present-day climate disaster, if researchers are right that extreme droughts, floods, and cold temperatures drove Donald Trump’s grandfather from Germany to America in 1885.
“Germans like Friedrich Trump came to the U.S. in part because they were looking for ‘peace and freedom,’” The Independent reports, citing a study led by physical geographer Rüdiger Glaser of the University of Freiburg.
While there were other factors that drove population shifts from Europe to North America, Glaser’s research shows that “changes in Europe’s climate were also responsible for up to 30% of emigration from southwest Germany to North America during this period,” the paper notes. “Climatic instability was triggered by the tail end of a period known as the Little Ice Age, and exacerbated by the massive eruption of Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia.”
The research team overlaid population and migration data with weather records, harvest figures, and cereal prices, concluding “that besides social and political changes such as the Napoleonic wars, climate made a significant contribution to German emigration,” The Independent states.
“There is a chain of events which goes climate extremes, drop in harvest yields, rising prices, and then the people are migrating,” Glaser said. “The out-migration movement to North America is still the most significant migration movement ever,” making it important for today’s political decision-makers to understand that history in the context of climate change.
“It’s really touching today’s main discussions on the global scale,” he said.