Job opportunities, “coolness” factor, and affordability may no longer be the major reasons why Americans move to new locations. Instead, climate change may force people to flee certain regions into cities that can maintain cooler temperatures and ward off rising sea levels. Scientists predict that most of California and the Southwest, along with the East Coast and Southeast, will be disaster zones in just a few decades due to drought, wildfires, heat waves, hurricanes and more. The Pacific Northwest, the northern Great Plains, and the Midwest, however, are predicted to fare much better as the planet heats up, and we might also see a massive exodus to our northernmost state.


matthew e. kahn, environmental economics, university of california los angeles, climate change, climate refuge, climate refugees, rising sea levels, california, southwest, east coast, southeast, drought, wildfires, heat waves, hurricanes, pacific northwest, northern great plains, midwest, water stress, alaska, minneapolis, salt lake city, milwaukee, detroit, climatopolis, extreme weather, rising temperatures, environmental refugees, coasts, camilo mora, university of hawaii, Nature, thomas c. peterson, national oceanic and atmospheric administration, national climate data center

According to scientists, climate change models show that most of the USA will look very different in 2050, 2100, and beyond, than how it looks right now. As extreme heat and droughts cut a swathe through the midwest and southern states, the Pacific Northwest will be one of the few places of respite. Since it’s less likely to suffer from the same extreme heat as the rest of the country, the coastal strip running from northern British Columbia, Canada, down to California’s Bay Area will still be comfortably habitable. That said, Anchorage, Alaska, may end up being the most ideal place to hunker down and build a life, with Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Detroit being runners-up as far as safe haven goes.

In his 2010 book “Climatopolis”, Matthew E. Kahn, a professor of environmental economics at the University of California, predicts that when temperatures, inclement weather, and cost of living render an area unliveable, residents may flee to more desirable areas. These “environmental refugees” will likely leave cities such as San Diego and Phoenix in favor of those mentioned above. In a hundred years, Detroit could very well be a sought-after locale for those trying to eke out a living.

Related: Global Warming Will Lead to Hundreds of Millions of Climate Change Refugees

It’s estimated that within the next 30 to 40 years, high temperatures the likes of which have never been recorded will become a worldwide norm. Cities such as Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles will likely see massive change by 2047 or 2048, while Anchorage, Alaska, will take a couple of decades longer to heat up. We’re already seeing the effects of climate change on a global scale, but we’re really only seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as what the future has in store.

Although some climate experts believe that most major cities will create action plans to fend off catastrophe, there’s only so much that can be done, especially in just a few years’ time. Change is happening fast, so whatever action can be taken has to be done as quickly as possible to brace for what’s on the horizon.

Via the New York Times

Photos by shona_mackintosh (Flickr: Challenge.) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and by Steve & Jemma Copley (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons