With Donald Trump sending 5,000 troops to his country’s southern border—and surprising the Pentagon yesterday by threatening a force of up to 15,000—in his latest attempt to head off hordes of Democratic voters in next Tuesday’s midterm elections, the United Nations and at least one aid agency are pointing to climate change as the main driver of the migrant caravan wending its way through Mexico to the United States.
“The migrants are heading north for a variety of reasons, from unemployment to violence. But one of the underlying causes is climate change,” EcoWatch reports. “A study led by the UN World Food Program found that the drought, rather than violence, was the driving factor causing people to leave the region to seek food and work elsewhere,” the online newsletter adds, citing an article in National Geographic.
“That’s because of drought and irregular rainfall in something called the Dry Corridor, a region in the lowlands of Central America along the Pacific coast,” writes reporter Olivia Rosane. “Migration from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador has rapidly increased in the past 10 years, which coincides with a period of drought that has cost the three countries around 700,000 acres in corn and bean crops just this year.”
While researchers aren’t sure how much of the drought to attribute to climate change, “experts with experience in the region know the current weather patterns are more extreme than in the past.”
“We still have some ways to go before we can conclude scientifically that what we’re seeing now is outside the normal,” said Edwin Castellanos, director of Guatemala’s Center for the Study of the Environment and Biodiversity. “But if you go out to the field and ask anybody if this is normal, everybody says no.”
“This is the worst drought we’ve ever had,” corn farmer Méndez López told National Geographic. “We’ve lost absolutely everything. If things don’t improve, we’ll be forced to migrate somewhere else. We can’t go on like this.”
Even if this drought doesn’t trace back directly to climate change, “future ones will,” EcoWatch notes, with National Geographic placing Guatemala among the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate impacts. Which means that Trump’s “militarized response to current migrants does not bode well for how it will treat the climate refugees of the future.”