Global Warming and USA Migration

Global warming may push millions of Americans away from the coast.

by Eric Holdeman / November 27, 2018

Climate change, sea rise and other climate factors will cause people to move. Some people may decry the notion that there will be a migration of people due to climate change. However, other migrations have happened in the past. Certainly the wagon trains headed West along the Oregon Trail hearken to the past migration of people looking for new opportunities. Other climate disasters, like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s put people on the road due to the weather and economic necessity.

See this Bloomberg article, Climate May Force Millions to Move and U.S. Isn’t Ready, Report Says. This comes from the recent federal Fourth Climate Assessment released last Friday. The Bloomberg article was shared by Claire Rubin.

The coasts of the United States impacted by hurricanes will be the first to feel the total impact of climate change. These disasters will be bigger with more impact to larger swaths of land and numbers of people. Before that happens, there will be more incidents of "coastal flooding" during high tide, and in Florida the creeping menace of saltwater percolating through the sandstone that underlies the state, poisoning water systems that used to provide fresh water. 

New York City will be the hardest place to retreat from due to the extent of the infrastructure development and density of population. I watched a 60 Minute segment on the need to update the city's outdated and failing subway system. No mention was made of how they were going to try to adapt that system to sea rise. 

While much attention is being paid to the coasts, there are other climate-related risks that are likely to cause migration. The desert Southwest has survived on having electrical power for air conditioning and water from other sources outside of the region or groundwater. Water is a finite commodity and without significant adaptation measures like the conservation measures used in Las Vegas, the population, which continues to grow, will not be able to be supported. 

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have had a fairly mild climate and we may see climate-induced migrants coming to our region. But ... the snowpack in the mountains that feeds our hydroelectric systems and water systems is expected to decline to the point where water rationing is only one season away. 

I expect to see the debate happen in my lifetime where the proponents for fish, whales, farming, river navigation and fresh water for drinking become locked in mortal battle. 

Stay tuned for more climate impacts and disasters. Business is looking up!