About one-third of people who die along the U.S.-Mexican border seeking a better life in the United States perish from exposure to environmental extremes like heat, and climate change will make that journey even more deadly. In a deeply-reported piece, in collaboration with authors of a recent study published in Science, Atmos reports climate change is making the journey from Latin America to the U.S. even more deadly as temperatures rise and the amount of water migrants must carry to survive increases.

Over the last quarter-century, officially, at least 7,805 people have died across the Southwest, at least 2,936 have perished in Pima and Maricopa Counties, Arizona, since 2006, and 126 bodies have been found so far this year. According to Adriana Carrillo, founder of migrant rescue group Save Our Souls Search and Rescue, many remains are found beneath trees where migrants sought one last bit of respite from the desert sun. The actual number of the deceased is, of course, far higher.

30 pounds of water

By 2050 increasing temperatures mean a 5-year-old child crossing from Nogales, Mexico to Three Points, Arizona (about 58 miles as the crow flies) will need to carry 1.58 gallons (more than 13 pounds) of water and a pregnant person will need to carry 3.6 gallons (more than 30 pounds) of water just to survive the roughly two-day journey. Of course, that’s in a best-case scenario. “The longer you spend out in the desert,” Reena Walker, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Idaho and co-author of the study, emphasized, “the more water you’re going to need to simply survive.”

Estimates of the number of migrants who perish trying to cross the border are low because the human rights groups — which search for (and attempt to rescue) stranded migrants, as well as searching for the bodies of those who have gone missing — are barred from entering the largely privately-owned lands that make up most of the Texas-Mexico border. Some other bodies are never found. What is certain, however, is that absent action to slash climate pollution, temperatures will continue to rise. “I worry about how many more migrant deaths we will have,” Carrillo said. (Atmos)