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Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Current Refugee Crisis Just Small Taste Of What Climate Change Could Bring

The nearly always quote-worthy CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, recently made some interesting comments on the ongoing “refugee crisis” in Europe, the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, and other topics in a speech at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in Berlin.

Perhaps the most noteworthy comment was the remark that the current refugee crisis is just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s to come without effective actions taken to avert catastrophic climate change.

“Today’s refugee problem is perhaps a small indication of what the future will be like if we do not take action with respect to climate change,” stated Musk during the recent speech. “Today, the challenge is in terms of millions of people, but in the future, based on what the scientific consensus is, the problem will be in the hundreds of millions and much more severe.”

Not a new sentiment, of course — this reality has been well acknowledged in many circles for decades now. That said, I think that it’s worth making a note here that regardless of the actions taken to attempt to limit the scale of future anthropogenic climate change in the Middle East, North Africa, and many other regions, these places are all heavily overpopulated compared to their carrying capacity.

Even now, many of these regions are greatly dependent upon extensive food imports — with desertification via the over-exploitation of dry-land ecosystems (via overgrazing, poor irrigation practices, etc) now picking up, this problem is only set to grow in the future. Other significant issues in these regions, which are set to spur a repeat of the Völkerwanderung of the Late Roman Period (which saw the various “Germanic” tribes, amongst others, mass emigrate into Europe from West Asia) include: the widespread depletion of groundwater and fossil aquifers; economic troubles and growing levels of social turmoil + war; and diminishing agricultural yields/famine. (It should probably be noted here that many of the groups that invaded the decaying Empire first were actually erstwhile allies which had previously been propped up by the Romans as a buffer against outside groups. Something to think about.)

Anyways… back to Elon’s speech. He also commented a bit on the recent scandal concerning Volkswagen’s diesel emissions fraud. Interestingly, he noted that, while the news was “troubling,” it was really a small detail amongst a much broader problem.


“If you go 20, 30, 50 years in the future, what do you say to your kids or your grandkids?” Elon Musk stated. He then mentioned the fact that ~97% of climate scientists have accepted the conclusion that humans are causing global warming and climate change. “So, to say to your kids or grandkids, ‘Did nobody tell you?’ No, everyone was telling us. ‘So why didn’t you do anything?’ What’s the answer? I think it’s very important that we do something.”

I’ll comment here that what history tends to show, though, is that large groups of people possess a great deal of inertia with regard to ingrained habits and cultural beliefs. To put it simply, people don’t change willingly and quickly. That’s not to say that change won’t come, but I’m very skeptical that it’ll come without a great deal of hardship first. The future will be “interesting,” I suppose.

For those with the time, I recommend watching the whole video. It’s quite an interesting speech. (Musk begins speaking about 9 minutes in.)

As a final side note, while many of the immigrants of the recent refugee crisis are in fact war refugees from Syria, a great many others (from neighboring countries) are also taking advantage of the turmoil to try and enter the European Union for reasons that are primarily monetary in origin. Referring to many of these people as “economic migrants” seems fair to me. The issues are of course related, though — war and economic problems go hand in hand.

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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