Rain in Honduras, 8 January 2017. Graphic: Copeco

By Stephanie Leutert
21 June 2017

(Lawfare) – Last Thursday and Friday, the United States and Mexico co-hosted top officials from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other countries for the "Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America." As the name suggests, the gathering aimed to spur a wide-ranging conversation for improving the region’s economic conditions, tackling gangs and organized crime, and slowing U.S.-bound migration. But one topic was conspicuously missing from the conference’s public record: climate change.

Most observers may not have found this omission noteworthy. Climate change-induced migration hasn’t been widely connected to the current waves of mass migration from Central American. And it’s no secret that the Trump administration has proven hostile to addressing climate change. But changing weather conditions are an undeniable factor in Central American migration and ignoring this issue will only undermine the conference’s ambitious agenda.

A few weeks ago, during a trip along the Mexico-Guatemala border I met a group of climate migrants. The three Hondurans—two brothers and their childhood friend—were all heading north after three years of unusual weather in their community of San José in the Copán district of western Honduras. They explained that the seasonal rains were coming too late and the hot, dry periods were lasting too long, leaving the soil more like dust than fertile land. Without decent crop yields, the families spent down their savings until they finally ran out of money, food, and the capacity to wait for better weather.

To learn more about their story, I called the local government office of Santa Rosa near the brothers’ hometown. Josselyn Hernandez, the administrator who took my call, confirmed that the weather was indeed shifting in the area. But the issue wasn’t just the rainy season’s unpredictability. Severe storms were rocking the region as we spoke, ruining crops and displacing entire families. "It rains every year," she explained during our call, "but never with this intensity."

These are not just a few fluke weather years. Studies consistently show that Honduras is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to the effects of climate change. The western section of Honduras is particularly vulnerable to reduced precipitation and extreme or unpredictable weather events. Projections estimate a 10 to 20 percent decrease in rain over the next 30 years and a 2-degree Celsius increase in the average temperature. [more]

Climate Change-Induced Migration from Central America

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