Climate activists have been claiming that climate change would drastically increase the number of refugees and migrants. And hey presto! The number of refugees and migrants has increased to 60 million. Sadly for the activists, only 2 out of the 60 million have claimed to be ‘climate change refugees’, the others pointing to phenomena such as civil war, the Taliban and other annoyances of modern life. Considering there were supposed to be 10 million climate refugees at this point, the kindest thing we can say about their prediction is that they’ve come up a bit short.
The climate activists have gotten it backwards, as usual. Don’t tell Donald Trump, but in truth, climate change doesn’t cause immigration. In fact, immigration causes climate change. Not much, but you can see it if you squint.
Picture one of the millions of refugees who has successfully navigated to Germany. In Syria, if he was average, he consumed about 40 mbtus of energy a year. Now that he is in Germany he will consume about 250 mbtus annually.
This isn’t just a statistical trick. He will have moved from a low energy environment to a high one. Even a barracks (or Templehof Airport, where hundreds of refugees are camping out) uses air conditioning and heating, lighting and ventilation, that are not standard in Syria. Even if the state generously provides him with an apartment (I keep saying him because the huge majority of current refugees are younger males–they’ll send for their families once they’re settled) and pays the bills for him, that apartment will also consume more energy than the home he left–elevators, appliances, etc., as well as heating and air conditioning.
Let’s imagine our Syrian refugee wants to open a bakery and finds the funds to do it. It will be inside, not in an open air market. That means energy. Fitting it out for German health and safety standards consumes energy and those standards mandate energy consumption going forward. The bread he bakes will come at least in part from imported ingredients, adding food miles to the bill.
The Syrian will quickly consume as much energy as the native born Germans, even if he can’t afford a car at first.
Worse yet, immigration is a public good to the host country. It increases economic activity–most newcomers are desperate to work, but even for those few who intend to let the state take care of them, somebody is paying their rent and buying their food and that means someone is selling it. Even if our Syrian foregoes baking and takes a job away from a German riding behind a garbage truck, the German will in all probability find another job that is more productive and increases German GDP again. But there is a link (not a one-for-one link, but a link) between increasing GDP and energy consumption. Our displaced German may get a better job allowing him or her to buy a car, travel more, etc. All increasing energy consumption. Germany will consume more energy and emit more CO2 because of accepting refugees because Germany will be more successful as a country. The horror!
Energy consumption translates very quickly to CO2 emissions. Despite Germany’s heroic efforts to move to renewables, 81% of their energy is fueled the old-fashioned way, including a surprising amount by coal.
I support immigration to all of our Western countries with declining populations. We need the workers and we need their ideas. I also personally think we need a bit of shaking up regarding our cultural landscape, although I’m sure many differ. But in a world where Donald Trump could actually be considered as a candidate for a major political party for any high office–hell, any low office–I think our cultures need to be exposed to more, not less, foreign influences. I don’t particularly care what religion they profess either. Germany has had a huge number of Muslims living within their borders for decades without much in the way of problems and other countries with large Muslim populations haven’t suffered much either. Instead, they have benefited from what the Muslims can bring to the table.
But the fact remains that we have discovered to our amazement that there are two ways of modernizing a population, which naturally increases energy consumption and CO2 emissions. We’ve been focusing on helping poorer countries develop. But the people in those countries are in the process of showing us that it can also happen by their moving to richer countries.