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Climate Migration – The Wave of the Future?

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

A report commissioned last year by the Environmental Defense Fund entitled Climate Fueled Weather Disasters: Costs to State and Local Economies details the economic damage caused by extreme weather events such as floods, fires and hurricanes.

All of the events covered in the report resulted in property damage of at least $1 billion. Since 1980, the frequency of such events in the United States has increased fourfold. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “since 2005, the federal government including FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), has spent at least $450 billion on disaster assistance.”

The report quantifies future costs of extreme weather events. And how they will inevitably be catalyzed by rising global temperatures and continued greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent data from the Rhodium Group indicates that the most livable climate in the USA is shifting inexorably northward. The Mississippi River valley, which stretches 2,348 miles through the center of the country, will be “swamped” by “dangerous levels of humidity.” And rising sea levels will overwhelm our coastal cities before the end of this century.

The Army Corps of Engineers can only perform so much flood control. Many highly populated areas will become uninhabitable. The question is, when does the cost of staying home in a danger zone outweigh the cost of leaving? At what point does finding new roots in safer climate make sense?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, more than a million people were displaced throughout the region. Some ultimately returned, but a large portion of them did not. In New Orleans, for example, the population in 2012 remained at 76% of what it had been in 2000.

The Urban Institute says, in 2018 alone, 1.2+ million Americans were forced to leave their homes because of weather-related catastrophes.

The Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists offers a startling projection in the next 45 years. It estimates 1 in 12 Americans living in the southern half of the U.S. will uproot and leave their homes. Why? In response to climate disruption. Given the rapid change we are witnessing, it may even be a conservative assessment.

Today, many businesses are starting to take climate considerations into account as they make plans for the future. They are starting to ask questions. What are the potential threats in the locale where we are situated? If we have to leave, where could we go? Could we reestablish this business elsewhere if we have to?

Businesses – just like individuals and families – will be compelled to respond to drastically changing environmental conditions. As these conditions will impact business viability and sustainability. The essentials are food, water, shelter, and community. These essentials may no longer be so easily accessible in the years and decades to come.

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