Migration due to climate change is already happening in the United States

With more frequent and stronger hurricanes, torrential and extended rainfall, expanding wildfires, increasing heat, inexorable sea level rise, and more, climate migration is already happening in the United States.  “The population shift gathering pace is so sprawling that it may rival anything in U.S. history.”

“By the end of this century, sea level rise alone could displace 13 million people, including 6 million in Florida.”

This migration will be “from every coastal place in the U.S. to every other place in the U.S.”  “Not everyone can afford to move, so we could end up with trapped populations that would be in a downward spiral.”

Climate pressure will not only be on the U.S. coasts.  Inland, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and other climate-fueled changes will also push people to migrate.  Research indicates “that the economies of the southern states, along with parts of the west, will suffer disproportionally as temperatures rise.”  Wealth in the U.S. is expected to shift north and west.

Of course, it is not just the United States where climate change is causing people to move.  By 2050, there may be 150 to 300 million climate refugees worldwide.  In areas to be impacted by longer stretches of high heat, even with air conditioning  and even in the U.S., areas that have been attractive destinations will become less habitable and much less desirable by 2050.

“By 2065, southern states are expected to lose 8% of their U.S. population share.”  People may be moving to the northwest and to areas close to the Great Lakes and in New England–areas where temperatures are expected to remain more bearable and where weather extremes are less likely to happen.  As a result, the population of the northeast U.S. may increase 9%, the western U.S. by more than 10% over the next 50 years.

The true cost of relocation is huge–perhaps $200,000 to $1 million per person.  Governments–local, state, and federal–either won’t be able to afford this or will decide not to help pay for it.  The U.S. is not “set up to deal with slow-moving disasters like this”; people around the country will be on their own.

Read the article; see the graphic (Oliver Milman, The Guardian, September 24, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of climate change, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database

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