Global Warming and Illegal Immigration: At Last, Tying It All Together!

Thinking that it has caught Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in a “gotcha” moment, the House Republican leadership has made an issue of the governor’s “selective sense of urgency” in addressing global warming and illegal immigration. Stated a press release issued yesterday by House Speaker’s office:

In today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Kaine declares about his proposal concerning global warming, “While climate change should be addressed at the national level, I think most governors are just tired of waiting. We can’t wait for the federal government to do it.”

Conversely, on the issue of criminal illegal aliens, the Governor has castigated the federal government for failing to take action — but has discouraged state and municipal governments from stepping in.

“Suggesting Virginia should take a proactive role on global warming – an issue he concedes is federal in nature – while failing to take action on the growing negative effects of criminal illegal aliens is misguided and insulting to Virginians’ common sense.”

The Republicans stumbled onto a legitimate point, but they played it wrong. They tried to stick Kaine with a charge of hypocrisy, which the media predictably ignored, tossing it off as cheap and meaningless campaign rhetoric. But if handled properly, the Global Warming angle could change the tenor of the illegal immigration debate: Illegal immigrants contribute to global warming.

Seriously. I’m not making that up.

According to prevailing Global Warming theory, manmade global warming is the result of the increase in greenhouse gases, predominantly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The rising level of CO2 can be attributed primarily, though not exclusively, to increasing consumption of fossil fuels. Until renewable energy can kick in on a large scale, fossil fuel consumption is a function of two things: the number of people and the level of material prosperity. In other words, the more people there are who consume more stuff, the more greenhouse gases they’ll generate.

So, what happens when a poor worker from Mexico (2006 per capita income, about $11,000) moves to the United States (per capita income, about $43,000)? He’ll wind up earning four times as much money, consuming four times more stuff and generating four times the volume of greenhouse gases. Bottom line: the massive influx of illegal immigration into Virginia contributes to this country’s rapid population growth and surging resource consumption. If Gov. Kaine wants to hold down greenhouse gas emissions, he needs to stem the tide of illegal population growth.

Now, a lot of people won’t buy this line of logic. But it seems fully consistent with Gov. Kaine’s worldview — and that of many environmentalists, who believe there are just too darn many people on the planet consuming too much stuff. Given Kaine’s missionary work in Honduras as a young man and his sentimental attitude toward Hispanics, I doubt that he will change his position. But other environmentalists and conservationists may be looking for ways to curb population growth any way they can.

Instead of going for the easy “gotcha” moment, worth at best a one-paragraph quote buried deep in a one-day news story, the Republicans should be holding serious discussions with leaders of the environmental/conservation movement to see if they can find common ground.

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18 responses to “Global Warming and Illegal Immigration: At Last, Tying It All Together!”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “He’ll wind up earning four times as much money, consuming four times more stuff and generating four times the volume of greenhouse gases.”

    You are absolutely correct!

    So what happens if he stays home and Mexico improves it’s own economy.. as does India, China, etc, etc?

    I’m quite sure that people of conscience would never ever say or even think that the solution to Global Warming is for us to do the best we can to keep other people from improving their lives – right?

    So.. if the US is a leader in advocating freedom and prosperity for all people and we are a leader in preserving and protecting the natural resources that we all need to be healthy and prosperous..

    what exactly should our policy be towards with regard to those folks that come across the border begging us for a job?

    My solution – let’s go invest in Mexico building environmental widgets that reduce greenhouse gases…

    By doing this we show leadership on an important issue, we show leadership on caring for other folks not as fortunate as ourselves and we put our money where our mouth is by providing jobs… accomplish both.

    Naw.. Bush is right.. screw the rest of the world… it’s all about us.

  2. Groveton Avatar

    “He’ll wind up earning four times as much money, consuming four times more stuff and generating four times the volume of greenhouse gases.”

    Not too sure about the linear relationship here. By that measure, Bill Gates contributes more to global warming than a coal fired electrictal generating plant.

    Also – what is the US rating on pollution per $s of GDP? My guess is that the US is pretty efficient per dollar of output (vs. per person) but I certainly could be wrong. However, if true – a Mexican working here might pollute less than that same Mexican weorking in Mexico. This would be true of it could be demonstrated that the United States is a much more efficient place to produce (from a carbon:$GDP perspective) than Mexico.

    Larry Gross brings up a good point which I’ll reword as “What’s wrong with Mexico?”. Why does Mexico have 1/4 the per capita GDP of the United States? I have my own thoughts from the time I worked in MC. My thoughts revolve around a corrupt, racist, wealthy upper crust of Mexicans who hold the rest of the population in virtual servitude. People fleeing Mexico for the US are fleeing the incompetence of the Mexican government as much as anything else.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Are you calling Kaine a hypocrite? Seems a bit of a stretch here.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    No, the Republicans were calling him a hypocrite. I agree, that’s a stretch. Is he being inconsistent? Maybe, maybe not. I’d like to hear his arguments.

    My point is this: The Republicans settled for the easy shot against Kaine rather than explore the potential to change the terms of the illegal immigrant debate.

    I don’t even know if the Global Warming/Illegal Immigrant connection I tried to make will hold up under scrutiny. Groveton raised some interesting points. My goal with this post was really to throw something up against the wall and see what stuck.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “virtual servitude” in Mexico

    so.. they prefer our kind of servitude to theirs…

    re: stuff on the wall..

    yup.. I think this is one of those deals that can turn a lot of different ways.. and come back to bite.

    For instance… we.. essentially outsource our pollution… for some dirty industries.

    So we are the beneficiary – and the folks “in servitude” also have to live with pollution that does not even benefit them – AND counts against THEM when we tally up whose responsible for global warming…

  6. Groveton Avatar

    Our servitude pays better.

    And, re: servitude – why aren’t Canadians risking life and limb crossing the Rockies to get jobs in the US? Because there are jobs in Canada.

    Mexico hasn’t been involved in any devastating wars in decades.

    Mexico has oil.

    Mexico has the biggest customer of export goods as their northern neighbor.

    Yet people are risking life and limb to flee Mexico. They almost always send money home and plan to return to Mexico.


    What’s wrong with Mexico?

    Why is that country such an economic disaster?

    They have people, natural resources, a ready market for export goods. They are even willing to take on dirty industries for the US.

    So – why are the people fleeing by the millions?

    What’s wrong with Mexico?

    Jim B. – This may be worth a column in BR. Look at the economic conditions that drive people to flee their homes to find jobs up North. Important from an illegal immigrant perspective. Possibly instructive from a human settlement perspective regarding people migrating from rural areas to urban areas in the US looking for jobs.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    just a devils advocate question..

    do you think if China was on our border that the situation would be any different?

    Isn’t Canda’s economy so intertwined with the US that it’s hard to compare them with Mexico?

    My understanding is that it is not the truly wretched poor that is coming across..but rather upwardly mobile middle class folks (middle class for Mexico)….

    true .. not true?

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    What’s wrong with Mexico?

    I thought one of my Latino workers put it pretty well. “A few people have all of the money and a lot of people have not even shoes. What good all that money, it no go round and round?”

    “A pound of meat costs the same there as here. There I work all day for a pound of meat, here I work two hours.”

    Jesus can’t read or write, but he knows his economics.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Jesus also says that a big problem in Mexico is “la mordida”, the little death.

    La mordida is the constant string of petty bribes that you must pay to get anything accomplished. It is kind of like proffers at every level of government.

    Jesus has a son in college, and a wife with cancer. All he wants is to go home with enough to care for them. At his home they cook outdoors, because there is no kitchen. He wants to save enough to pay for his wife’s care and make a kind of outdoor patio for cooking.

    Probably they cook with charcoal, rather than natural gas, so Groveton may have a point about pollution per capita or dollar GNP.

    Jesus says that compared to some others, he is not poor.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    “So we are the beneficiary – and the folks “in servitude” also have to live with pollution that does not even benefit them – AND counts against THEM when we tally up whose responsible for global warming…”

    That’s why you do a full systems analysis of all the costs and all the benefits, before you make a social investment.

    You might invest in making widgets in mexico, but if you don’t have a real live measurable return at the systems level, it will eventually fail.


  11. Groveton Avatar


    Exceptional posts – especially the commentary from Jesus.

    That’s what I thought – ridiculously uneven distribution of wealth and rampant corruption.


    If China were on our border I’d expect that we’d have seen a lot of illegal immigration from China. However, I think the level of illegalimmigration would be slowing down quite a bit in recent years. The Chinese has pulled off something of an economic miracle in the last 20 years. Year over year GDP growth between 8 – 10% is pretty amazing for a country that size. Even allowing for some Commie smudging of the data – they are doing very well.

    So, the Chinese would have been crossing the border if they lived “next door” but they’d be crossing over less and less in recent years.

    Meanwhile, Mexico seems to just get worse and worse.

    I’ve been to China and done business in China. Yesterday, I was talking with a mayor of a large Chinese city about the possibility of my company invreasing its investment in that city.

    If there is widespread government corruption in China – I haven’t seen it. In fact, I’d expect that any Chinese official caught taking a bribe would be well advised to get his/her last will and testament in order.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “What’s wrong with Mexico?”

    For one thing, a huge amount of corruption. The government more or less grants near or full monopolies on some businesses and industries. The guy who holds a near monopoly on telecommunications, Carlos Slim, is now the richest man in the world, surpassing even Bill Gates.

    Meanwhile the remittances that Mexican workers – legal or illegal – in the US send home are the first or second largest source of outside income for Mexico. The other source is oil, which is declining because of lack of investment and capitalization.

    George Grayson of William and Mary has written quite a bit on Mexico’s economy.

    Deena Flinchum

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Should have mentioned that Bill Gates made his billions selling all over the world whereas Carlos Slim made his selling in Mexico, which has quite high telephone costs. No surprise.

    Deena Flinchum

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Oddly enough, there’s an article in today’s Washington Post on the subject of corruption in Mexico. It even mentions George Grayson…

    Deena Flinchum

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well that does it.

    Well, after we show Iran a thing or two, we’ll put Mexico next on the list.

    With a little luck – our troops will report rush across the border and report back “Mission Accomplished” right after we methodically round up the corrupt and spirit them off to undisclosed locations to be coaxed into “repenting”.

    I sure don’t understand how the rest of the world just does not measure up to our standards and we have to go out and show them the light.

    Seriously folks.. have ya’ll ever heard of earmarks, Duke Cunningham and a few others in the good ole USA?

    You know.. I bet if we bribe a few more up in our Congress ..they might pass immigration laws… right?

    Oh.. that’s right the folks that normally spread influence money around up there – are opposed to immigration laws… so no bribes for that.

    oh…I know.. we’re corrupt also but NOT THAT corrupt.


    hey.. new coffee this morning.. claims to “really spin you up”
    what do you think?

  16. Groveton Avatar

    Step away from the coffee mug, Larry. Step away from the mug!

    You make some sort of interesting points with one big omission:

    Millions upon millions of Americans are not sneaking across the Mexican or Canadian borders trying to find low paying jobs because they can’t get low paying jobs at home.

    Minor corruption is one thing.

    Destroying an entire country with corruption is another thing altogether.

    I was thinking more about an economic boycott against Mexico rather than an invasion.

    Except, of course, the areas of Mexico that have oil. Those areas need to be “democratized”.

  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Except, of course, the areas of Mexico that have oil. Those areas need to be “democratized”.

    we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin here.. we’d probably get a much better bank for our oil buck if we democratize Venezuela next. 🙂

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    “But other environmentalists and conservationists may be looking for ways to curb population growth any way they can.”

    Another “Modest Proposal” guaranteed to garner support.


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