Immigration to the United States and World-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions

August 1, 2008 | Leon Kolankiewicz

The findings of this study indicate that future levels of immigration will have a significant impact on efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions. Immigration to the United States significantly increases world-wide CO2 emissions because it transfers population from lower-polluting parts of the world to the United States, which is a higherpolluting country. On average immigrants increase their emissions four-fold by coming to America.

Among the findings:

• The estimated CO2 emissions of the average immigrant (legal or illegal) in the United States are 18 percent less than those of the average native-born American.
• However, immigrants in the United States produce an estimated four times more CO2 in the United States as they would have in their countries of origin.
• U.S. immigrants produce an estimated 637 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually — equal to Great Britain and Sweden combined.
• The estimated 637 tons of CO2 U.S. immigrants produce annually is 482 million tons more than they would have produced had they remained in their home countries.
• If the 482 million ton increase in global CO2 emissions caused by immigration to the United States were a separate country, it would rank 10th in the world in emissions.
• The impact of immigration to the United States on global emissions is equal to approximately 5 percent of the increase in annual world-wide CO2 emissions since 1980.
• Of the CO2 emissions caused by immigrants, 83 percent is estimated to come from legal immigrants and 17 percent from illegal immigrants.
• Legal immigrants have a much larger impact because they have higher incomes and resulting emissions, and they are more numerous than illegal immigrants.
• The above figures do not include the impact of children born to immigrants in the United States. If they were included, the impact would be much higher.
• Assuming no change in U.S. immigration policy, 30 million new legal and illegal immigrants are expected to settle in the United States in the next 20 years.
• In recent years, increases in U.S. CO2 emissions have been driven entirely by population increases as per capita emissions have stabilized

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