The already perilous desert crossing from Mexico to the US will become more dangerous as the climate warms, new research says.
The research, published in Science, finds that dehydration is already a leading driver of mortality in people crossing on foot from Nogales in Mexico to Three Points in Arizona.
It explains how extreme heat and water scarcity have claimed the lives of thousands attempting to enter the US from Mexico and quotes undocumented migrants, who confirm that dehydration, disorientation and organ failure are “common elements” of the journey.
The authors go on to show that as the climate warms, water loss will become even more extreme. They conclude that in 30 years, even under an “intermediate mitigation” scenario, people would be expected to lose one-third more water on a journey across the US southern border than they would today.
One expert, who was not involved in the study, tells Carbon Brief that the paper makes for “bleak” and “tragic” reading – but that it is “important” work.
However, he emphasises that political decisions also play a part adding: “Those specific locations of the desert are dangerous and that is determined by the weather and climate. But the reasons people are in those specific locations are the result of myriad political decisions.”
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