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Tue Sep 15, 2020, 05:55 PM

HOW CLIMATE MIGRATION WILL RESHAPE AMERICA

Millions will be displaced. Where will they go?

August besieged California with a heat unseen in generations. A surge in air-conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid, leaving a population already ravaged by the coronavirus to work remotely by the dim light of their cellphones. By midmonth, the state had recorded possibly the hottest temperature ever measured on earth — 130 degrees in Death Valley — and an otherworldly storm of lightning had cracked open the sky. From Santa Cruz to Lake Tahoe, thousands of bolts of electricity exploded down onto withered grasslands and forests, some of them already hollowed out by climate-driven infestations of beetles and kiln-dried by the worst five-year drought on record. Soon, California was on fire.

Over the next two weeks, 900 blazes incinerated six times as much land as all the state’s 2019 wildfires combined, forcing 100,000 people from their homes. Three of the largest fires in history burned simultaneously in a ring around the San Francisco Bay Area. Another fire burned just 12 miles from my home in Marin County. I watched as towering plumes of smoke billowed from distant hills in all directions and air tankers crisscrossed the skies. Like many Californians, I spent those weeks worrying about what might happen next, wondering how long it would be before an inferno of 60-foot flames swept up the steep, grassy hillside on its way toward my own house, rehearsing in my mind what my family would do to escape.

But I also had a longer-term question, about what would happen once this unprecedented fire season ended. Was it finally time to leave for good?

I had an unusual perspective on the matter. For two years, I have been studying how climate change will influence global migration. My sense was that of all the devastating consequences of a warming planet — changing landscapes, pandemics, mass extinctions — the potential movement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees across the planet stands to be among the most important. I traveled across four countries to witness how rising temperatures were driving climate refugees away from some of the poorest and hottest parts of the world. I had also helped create an enormous computer simulation to analyze how global demographics might shift, and now I was working on a data-mapping project about migration here in the United States.

So it was with some sense of recognition that I faced the fires these last few weeks. In recent years, summer has brought a season of fear to California, with ever-worsening wildfires closing in. But this year felt different. The hopelessness of the pattern was now clear, and the pandemic had already uprooted so many Americans. Relocation no longer seemed like such a distant prospect. Like the subjects of my reporting, climate change had found me, its indiscriminate forces erasing all semblance of normalcy. Suddenly I had to ask myself the very question I’d been asking others: Was it time to move?

I am far from the only American facing such questions. This summer has seen more fires, more heat, more storms — all of it making life increasingly untenable in larger areas of the nation. Already, droughts regularly threaten food crops across the West, while destructive floods inundate towns and fields from the Dakotas to Maryland, collapsing dams in Michigan and raising the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Rising seas and increasingly violent hurricanes are making thousands of miles of American shoreline nearly uninhabitable. As California burned, Hurricane Laura pounded the Louisiana coast with 150-mile-an-hour winds, killing at least 25 people; it was the 12th named storm to form by that point in 2020, another record. Phoenix, meanwhile, endured 53 days of 110-degree heat — 20 more days than the previous record.

For years, Americans have avoided confronting these changes in their own backyards. The decisions we make about where to live are distorted not just by politics that play down climate risks, but also by expensive subsidies and incentives aimed at defying nature. In much of the developing world, vulnerable people will attempt to flee the emerging perils of global warming, seeking cooler temperatures, more fresh water and safety. But here in the United States, people have largely gravitated toward environmental danger, building along coastlines from New Jersey to Florida and settling across the cloudless deserts of the Southwest.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/15/magazine/climate-crisis-migration-america.html

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Reply HOW CLIMATE MIGRATION WILL RESHAPE AMERICA (Original post)
Zorro Sep 15 OP
Hoyt Sep 15 #1
WA-03 Democrat Sep 15 #2
SunSeeker Sep 15 #3
dalton99a Sep 16 #4

Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 15, 2020, 06:14 PM

1. Question is, where to move? It's hot in Alaska, Washington State, New England, etc. My Southern

state actually had the mildest summer I can remember this year and we had plenty of rain. But, it's probably not the best place for those escaping climate change.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 15, 2020, 07:27 PM

2. Upper peninsula of Michigan looks safe in 2050.

Good article.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 15, 2020, 09:07 PM

3. They only thing that is driving people out of CA right now is housing prices.

And that means more people want to live hear than there is avaliable housing, hence the spike in prices.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Wed Sep 16, 2020, 10:17 AM

4. "Go North, young man"

Once you accept that climate change is fast making large parts of the United States nearly uninhabitable, the future looks like this: With time, the bottom half of the country grows inhospitable, dangerous and hot. Something like a tenth of the people who live in the South and the Southwest — from South Carolina to Alabama to Texas to Southern California — decide to move north in search of a better economy and a more temperate environment. Those who stay behind are disproportionately poor and elderly.

In these places, heat alone will cause as many as 80 additional deaths per 100,000 people — the nation’s opioid crisis, by comparison, produces 15 additional deaths per 100,000. The most affected people, meanwhile, will pay 20% more for energy, and their crops will yield half as much food or in some cases virtually none at all. That collective burden will drag down regional incomes by roughly 10%, amounting to one of the largest transfers of wealth in American history, as people who live farther north will benefit from that change and see their fortunes rise.

The millions of people moving north will mostly head to the cities of the Northeast and Northwest, which will see their populations grow by roughly 10%, according to one model. Once-chilly places like Minnesota and Michigan and Vermont will become more temperate, verdant and inviting. Vast regions will prosper; just as Hsiang’s research forecast that Southern counties could see a tenth of their economy dry up, he projects that others as far as North Dakota and Minnesota will enjoy a corresponding expansion. Cities like Detroit; Rochester, New York; Buffalo and Milwaukee will see a renaissance, with their excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways once again put to good use. One day, it’s possible that a high-speed rail line could race across the Dakotas, through Idaho’s up-and-coming wine country and the country’s new breadbasket along the Canadian border, to the megalopolis of Seattle, which by then has nearly merged with Vancouver to its north.

Sitting in my own backyard one afternoon this summer, my wife and I talked through the implications of this looming American future. The facts were clear and increasingly foreboding. Yet there were so many intangibles — a love of nature, the busy pace of life, the high cost of moving — that conspired to keep us from leaving. Nobody wants to migrate away from home, even when an inexorable danger is inching ever closer. They do it when there is no longer any other choice.

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