The Statue of Liberty Plan: A Progressive Vision for Migration in the Age of Climate Change

August 24, 2022

Climate change and mass migration are reshaping politics, economies, and livelihoods around the world—and they are increasingly connected. Climate change has already forced people across the globe to leave their homes to seek safety and sustainable livelihoods, and the pace of climate migration will continue to accelerate as the climate warms. Sudden-onset disasters, like hurricanes and floods, and slow-onset changes, like desertification and rising temperatures, will make more and more of the world inhospitable or uninhabitable. Depending on the rate of climate change and population growth over the coming 50 years, between 1 and 3 billion people are projected to live in areas outside the climate conditions that have sustained human life over the past 6,000 years.

Yet national and international policy architectures are mostly silent about climate migration. There is no migration pathway in US law for people displaced by climate change, and international climate agreements have little to say about what is to become of the millions of people who will need to migrate to survive.

In The Statue of Liberty Plan: A Progressive Vision for Migration in the Age of Climate Change, Deepak Bhargava and Rich Stolz discuss the links between climate change and migration, and propose a new plan—the Statue of Liberty Plan—for the US to reject nativism and instead embrace a new narrative and policies that would make the US the most welcoming country on earth for migrants and refugees. Adoption of the plan would counter authoritarian appeals, advance national economic and cultural renewal, and strengthen and protect multiracial democracy.

In the report, Bhargava and Stolz:

  • Summarize what researchers know about current and future climate migration: Even with needed mitigation and adaptation measures, increasing displacement caused by climate change will lead to greater levels of migration across borders—to the US, and around the world.
  • Argue that the absence of a bold, progressive, pro-migrant policy vision and narrative has enabled a negative feedback loop between mass migration and authoritarianism.
  • Propose a new narrative framework to build broad and sustainable public support for progressive immigration policies, turning the focus toward who we are and who we want to be as a receiving nation and centering the historical causes of migration, including the role of climate change (and the US contributions to it), and the importance of migration to the country’s future.
  • Propose a new policy architecture for climate migration to make the US the most welcoming country on earth for immigrants and refugees: A massive increase in migration levels is both just and necessary to address the corrosive humanitarian impacts of restrictive policies, the role of the US in causing climate change, the impact of repressive immigration policies on US culture and policy, and the country’s unsustainable demographic decline.
  • Propose movement-building and coalition-building strategies to bring together a mass constituency for creating policies welcoming immigrants to the United States.