Science journalist Axel Bojanowski at German flagship, center-left news weekly Spiegel here dismissed a recent study published by Columbia University scientists Wolfram Schlenker and Anouch Missirian, who had claimed climate warming was driving masses of environmental refugees to Europe.
The two scientists claimed in Science to have found a relationship between weather disasters and refugees migrating to Europe.
However, the far-fetched conclusions by the two scientists has since been met with sharp and harsh criticism for its loose use of statistics. The study was financed by the JRC of the European Union. One member of the JRC, Juan-Carlos Ciscar, said it was time for policy makers to act.
Paper gets “crushing assessment” from other scientists
However, Spiegel’s Bojanowski reports that a number of leading experts dismissed the paper’s claims. For example Thomas Bernauer and Vally Koubi the Zurich-based ETH said: “Politicians would be ill-advised to orient themselves based on this study.”
Bojanowski added that other experts SPIEGEL ONLINE asked gave it “a damning verdict“.
“Dumbest use of statistics”
The Spiegel journalist also took jabs at other leading media outlets, such as the Guardian, Reuters and AP, implying they uncritically used the study for hype.
Bojanowski then cited statistics expert William Briggs of Cornell to assess the methodology used by the study:
The dumbest, most idiotic use of statistics that I’ve seen in a long time.”
Tobias Ide of the Georg Eckert Institute also warned against simplifying “the relationship between warmer temperatures and migration“, Bojanowski wrote, and that Jonas Vestby of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo was surprised the paper ever got by peer-review.
Christiane Fröhlich of the University of Hamburg is considering a rebuttal at Science, Spiegel’s Bojanowski wrote.
Fröhlich says the Columbia University authors confused environmental refugees with political refugees. In Europe refugee status is given to persons who are politically oppressed and persecuted and not to those moving due to the environment. Critics of the study also called the projections and correlations claimed by Schlenker and Missirian as “highly speculative“.
Fröhlich also told Spiegel the paper “ignored numerous studies” on migration and warming. Briggs added that the two authors based their assumptions on only “15 years and in only one region” and “ignored 6000 years of human history“.
Bojanowski cited Briggs:
Just how important it would have been to include other regions was made clear by Briggs using one provocative question: ‘Why then don’t asylum applications in cool Chile rise after heat waves in the warm neighboring countries?'”