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Pulitzer Center Update April 10, 2019

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Cites Pulitzer Center Project at House Committee Hearing on Climate Change

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In the highlands of western Guatemala, in an area affected by deforestation, a man cuts firewood for cooking. Image by Mauricio Lima. Guatemala, 2019.
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Jonathan Blitzer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and Mauricio Lima, a documentary photographer...

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Image courtesy of House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Image courtesy of House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

On April 9, 2019, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing titled "The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change," at which former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel were questioned by the committee about the harmful impact of climate change on U.S. national security interests.

Part of the hearing centered on the problem of increased migration to the United States. Immigration has increased considerably in recent years due mostly to the effects of climate change on parts of the environment vital to agriculture in Central America. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez submitted as evidence Jonathan Blitzer and Mauricio Lima's Pulitzer Center-supported project "Guatemala Emigration Report" to highlight how climate change fuels immigration.

"There seems to be some confusion on how climate change is connected to immigration patterns," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I seek unanimous consent to submit to the record this article from The New Yorker on how climate change is fueling the U.S. border crisis particularly in Guatemala. 'The question is no longer whether someone will leave but when.'"

The New Yorker published this story in three parts. The livelihoods of a huge segment of the Guatemalan population depends on agriculture, and climate change is destroying their ability to live off the land. As the effects of climate change reduce the prospects for meaningful life in Guatemala, many farmers are forced to seek refuge in the United States. In a combination of photographs and reporting, Blitzer and Lima document these stories to show how climate change is driving migration from Central America to the United States.

The purpose of the hearing was to highlight how governmental inaction is exacerbating present social, political, and economic challenges facing the United States. "Climate change is a threat multiplier," Hagel noted. It worsens threats that already exist and makes it more difficult for the government to effectively meet challenges. This is certainly the case with immigration, which is the consequence of several underlying factors that are mostly independent of climate change, but is made worse by its effects.

The reference to Blitzer and Lima's project begins at 3:24:44. For more information on the hearing, please visit this link.

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