Despite the fact that the number of Mexican undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. is dropping, an anti-immigrant California group incorrectly blames immigrants for increasing carbon emissions in the U.S., leading to “environmental degradation.” Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), which is airing TV ads on MSNBC and other channels to promote the false link between immigration and climate change, bases its research on a flawed report by the nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which is connected to the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“Concerned about Americans’ huge carbon footprint? Then you should be concerned about immigration,” a man in the ad says in an attempt to scare viewers:
MAN: Immigrants produce four times more carbon emissions in the U.S. than their home countries. […] Reducing immigration won’t solve global warming, but it is part of the solution.
Watch it here:
The problem? The claim that immigrants have a carbon footprint four times larger in the U.S. comes from a CIS report, which has deeply flawed methodology. The report claims that a person’s CO2 emissions is directly related to his or her personal income — so a person making $110,000 per year will emit 10 percent more carbon than a person who earns $100,000 per year under the report’s methodology. Thus, because the report claims that each Mexican immigrant earns 53.2 percent of the average U.S. resident, it claims that these immigrants must also produce 53.2 percent of the carbon emissions.
But this is simply absurd. If such a relationship actually did exist, that would mean that Mitt Romney, who earned $21.6 million in 2010 — or more than 600 times the average annual income according to the CIS report — also must have produced 600 times the CO2 emissions. That’s enough of a carbon footprint to fuel over 2,200 vehicles or power more than 1,400 homes for an entire year. Not even John McCain owns that many houses.
There’s also robust data showing that immigrants produce less carbon emissions than their native-born citizen counterparts. Brookings found in 2008 that the 10 highest carbon-emitting cities have an average immigrant population below 5 percent, while the cities with the lowest carbon footprint have an average immigrant population of 26 percent. And as CAP Senior Fellow Andrew Light told ThinkProgress, even if we could suddenly remove the entire carbon impact created by immigrants, it would only decrease the U.S.’s carbon emissions by 7.32 percent in a good year. Clearly, immigrants are not to blame for the U.S.’s large climate footprint.
Rather than falsely blame immigrants for carbon emissions that have fed global warming, Americans should focus on practical solutions like better land use policies and landscape design to conserve resources. Los Angeles, which has a burgeoning second- and third-generation immigrant population, has seen its water usage decline to a 32-year low despite a population increase of 1 million people. It can be done, but using anti-immigrant sentiment to misplace blame to one section of the population distracts from what the U.S. should be doing to address global warming instead.
Sarah Glynn, policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, contributed to this report.