The Most Important Climate Solution Is One Leaders Refuse to Talk About

Article subtitle: 
Stabilizing our population through sensible immigration policies is a basic precondition for getting the climate crisis under control.
Article author: 
Leon Kolankiewicz
Article publisher: 
Real Clear Policy
Article date: 
14 December 2021
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

President Biden and other world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland last month to coordinate the global fight against climate change. Our commander-in-chief promised to lead the way by implementing policies — such as subsidizing the adoption of electric vehicles and other next-generation green technologies — to reduce U.S. carbon emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade.

Those are worthy initiatives. But we'll never achieve that ambitious goal unless President Biden pivots away from some of his signature immigration policies.

The president and his congressional allies are currently trying to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants [illegal alieninvaders] while also expanding legal immigration. In total, their proposals could result in millions of additional people moving to this country each year. And regardless of whether people view those new arrivals as productive workers who grow our economy — or burdens on taxpayers and American laborers — it's simply a fact that we'll struggle to slash overall emissions if our population keeps rapidly expanding.

Americans have shrunk their per capita carbon footprints by 23% since 1990, largely thanks to their adoption of more efficient vehicles and appliances. Yet, despite these efforts, the nation's overall carbon emissions have ticked upward since 1990.

The cause of this increase is no mystery. Over the last three decades, America's population has grown by roughly a third, swelling to more than 330 million. Immigration was, and still is, the chief driver of that population growth. Immigrants now make up nearly 14% of the population — up from less than 5% in 1970.

In fact, if current trends continue, immigration will account for 88% of America's population growth through 2065, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

As more people come to America — and adopt our carbon-intensive lifestyles — emissions will rise, even as per capita emissions continue to drop thanks to advances in green technology. By one estimate, the average immigrant's carbon emissions increase fourfold after moving to the United States.

Simply put, policies that encourage mass immigration are inadvertently accelerating climate change. 

Yet some of the most vocal proponents of climate action also support the status quo on immigration. Many of these environmentalists privately worry about immigration's impact on the planet — but they're loath to speak out publicly, lest people assume they're xenophobes or worse.

But there's no reason that people can't appreciate the millions of immigrants already here who've contributed to our economy and culture — while simultaneously recognizing the need to humanely impose limits on how many additional people can migrate to America in the future. 

If there is any hope of protecting our planet from the worsening ravages of climate change, our leaders must be willing to follow the evidence where it leads, and to make difficult policy choices when necessary. Stabilizing our population through sensible immigration policies is a basic precondition for getting the climate crisis under control.

Leon Kolankiewicz, an environmental scientist and planner, serves as vice-president of Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization (SEPS).