NY Times Magazine: "How Climate Migration Will Reshape America" This article, the second in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine , with support from the Pulitzer Center . By 2040, according to federal government projections, extreme water shortages will be nearly ubiquitous west of Missouri. From state to state, readily available and affordable policies have made it attractive to buy or replace homes even where they are at high risk of disasters, systematically obscuring the reality of the climate threat and fooling many Americans into thinking that their decisions are safer than they actually are. by Abrahm Lustgarten, photography by Meridith Kohut, A Warming Planet and a Shifting Population. Until now, the market mechanisms had essentially socialized the consequences of high-risk development. Americans have dealt with climate disaster before. Their interest suggested a growing investor-grade nervousness about swiftly mounting environmental risk in the hottest real estate markets in the country. Keenan calls the practice of drawing arbitrary lending boundaries around areas of perceived environmental risk “bluelining,” and indeed many of the neighborhoods that banks are bluelining are the same as the ones that were hit by the racist redlining practice in days past. A poll by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities found that even Republicans’ views are shifting: 1 in 3 now thinks climate change should be declared a national emergency. The Sunday Read: ‘How Climate Migration Will Reshape America’ ... For two years, he had been studying the impact of the changing climate on global migration around the world. On Oct. 9, 2017, a wildfire blazed through the suburban blue-collar neighborhood of Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, California, virtually in my own backyard. 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. profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. That’s what happened in Florida. “And once this flips,” he added, “it’s likely to flip very quickly.”. A Dust Bowl event will most likely happen again. Coastal high points will be cut off from roadways, amenities and escape routes, and even far inland, saltwater will seep into underground drinking-water supplies. Suddenly I had to ask myself the very question I’d been asking others: Was it time to move? Three of the largest fires in history burned simultaneously in a ring around the San Francisco Bay Area. Part 2, “How Climate Migration Will Reshape America,” explores how the climate crisis will increasingly affect migration patterns within the United States. But like other scientists I’d spoken with, Keenan had been reluctant to draw conclusions about where these migrants would be driven from. For more information about canonical metadata, You can’t edit our material, except to reflect relative changes in time, location and editorial style. What I found was a nation on the cusp of a great transformation. They are likely, in the long term, unsalvageable. Sitting in my own backyard one afternoon this summer, my wife and I talked through the implications of this looming American future. Rising insurance costs and the perception of risk force credit-rating agencies to downgrade towns, making it more difficult for them to issue bonds and plug the springing financial leaks. Perhaps no market force has proved more influential — and more misguided — than the nation’s property-insurance system. By comparison, Americans are richer, often much richer, and more insulated from the shocks of climate change. It happened that way in the foreclosure crisis. Soon, California was on fire. At least 30 states, including Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas, have developed so-called FAIR plans, and today they serve as a market backstop in the places facing the highest risks of climate-driven disasters, including coastal flooding, hurricanes and wildfires. Life has become increasingly untenable in the hardest-hit areas, but if the people there move, where will everyone go? You can’t republish our material wholesale, or automatically; you need to select stories to be republished individually. By 2050, researchers at the University of Chicago and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies found, Dust Bowl-era yields will be the norm, even as demand for scarce water jumps by as much as 20%. Millions took up the invitation, replacing hardy prairie grass with thirsty crops like corn, wheat and cotton. So the Florida Legislature created a state-run company to insure properties itself, preventing both an exodus and an economic collapse by essentially pretending that the climate vulnerabilities didn’t exist. Many insurance companies, recognizing the likelihood that it would happen again, declined to renew policies and left the state. But the development that resulted is still in place. In 2017, Solomon Hsiang, a climate economist at the University of California, Berkeley, led an analysis of the economic impact of climate-driven changes like rising mortality and rising energy costs, finding that the poorest counties in the United States — mostly across the South and the Southwest — will in some extreme cases face damages equal to more than a third of their gross domestic products. One influential 2018 study, published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, suggests that 1 in 12 Americans in the Southern half of the country will move toward California, the Mountain West or the Northwest over the next 45 years because of climate influences alone. The federal National Flood Insurance Program has paid to rebuild houses that have flooded six times over in the same spot. This article, the first in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center. 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. Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Local banks, meanwhile, keep securitizing their mortgage debt, sloughing off their own liabilities. I mentioned this on the phone and then asked Keenan, “Should I be selling my house and getting — ”. In February, the Legislature introduced a bill compelling California to, in the words of one consumer advocacy group, “follow the lead of Florida” by mandating that insurance remain available, in this case with a requirement that homeowners first harden their properties against fire. The freeway to San Francisco will need to be raised, and to the east, a new bridge will be required to connect the community of Point Richmond to the city of Berkeley. Florida, concerned that it had taken on too much risk, has since scaled back its self-insurance plan. Florida officials have already acknowledged that defending some roadways against the sea will be unaffordable. That kind of loss typically drives people toward cities, and researchers expect that trend to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. How Climate Migration Will Reshape America. But I also had a longer-term question, about what would happen once this unprecedented fire season ended. It was the kind of thing that might never have been possible if California’s autumn winds weren’t getting fiercer and drier every year, colliding with intensifying, climate-driven heat and ever-expanding development. It’s only a matter of time before homeowners begin to recognize the unsustainability of this approach. At the same time, more than 1.5 million people have moved to the Phoenix metro area, despite its dependence on that same river (and the fact that temperatures there now regularly hit 115 degrees). ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Lending data analyzed by Keenan and his co-author, Jacob Bradt, for a study published in the journal Climatic Change in June shows that small banks are liberally making loans on environmentally threatened homes, but then quickly passing them along to federal mortgage backers. ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten talks about his most recent article, "How Climate Migration Will Reshape America," in the New York Times Magazine. Hauer estimates that hundreds of thousands of climate refugees will move into the city by 2100, swelling its population and stressing its infrastructure. Hurricane Andrew reduced parts of cities to landfill and cost insurers nearly $16 billion in payouts. Not every city can spend $100 billion on a sea wall, as New York most likely will. Colorado tried to seal its border from the climate refugees; in California, they were funneled into squalid shanty towns. 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. At least 28 million Americans are likely to face megafires like the ones we are now seeing in California, in places like Texas and Florida and Georgia. One in 10 households earns less than $10,000 a year, and rings of extreme poverty are growing on its outskirts even as the city center grows wealthier. The facts were clear and increasingly foreboding. The disaster propelled an exodus of some 2.5 million people, mostly to the West, where newcomers — “Okies” not just from Oklahoma but also Texas, Arkansas and Missouri — unsettled communities and competed for jobs. Inchlong cinders had piled on my windowsills like falling snow. Thanks to federally subsidized canals, for example, water in part of the Desert Southwest costs less than it does in Philadelphia. Rising seas and increasingly violent hurricanes are making thousands of miles of American shoreline nearly uninhabitable. It’s an early sign, he told me, that the momentum is about to switch directions. Then, entirely predictably, came the drought. Extreme humidity from New Orleans to northern Wisconsin will make summers increasingly unbearable, turning otherwise seemingly survivable heat waves into debilitating health threats. “It’s hard to forecast something you’ve never seen before,” he said. And the nation’s federal flood-insurance program is for the first time requiring that some of its payouts be used to retreat from climate threats across the country. "Of all the devastating consequences of a warming planet—changing landscapes, pandemics, mass extinctions—the potential movement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees … How climate migration will reshape America. Under the radar, a new class of dangerous debt — climate-distressed mortgage loans — might already be threatening the financial system. It is natural that rural Guatemalans or subsistence farmers in Kenya, facing drought or scorching heat, would seek out someplace more stable and resilient. This article, the first in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center. ... Abrahm Lustgarten writes on how the effects of climate change will disrupt the economy and our communities in the US. At the same time, they have all but stopped lending money for the higher-end properties worth too much for the government to accept, suggesting that the banks are knowingly passing climate liabilities along to taxpayers as stranded assets. This summer has seen more fires, more heat, more storms — all of it making life increasingly untenable in larger areas of the nation. So insurers had rated it as “basically zero risk,” according to Kevin Van Leer, then a risk modeler from the global insurance liability firm Risk Management Solutions. This is what we found. Like the subjects of my reporting, climate change had found me, its indiscriminate forces erasing all semblance of normalcy. This includes publishing or syndicating our work on platforms or apps such as Apple News, Google News, etc. In all, Hauer projects that 13 million Americans will be forced to move away from submerged coastlines. Last fall, though, as the previous round of fires ravaged California, his phone began to ring, with private-equity investors and bankers all looking for his read on the state’s future. If you use canonical metadata, please use the ProPublica URL. In Santa Rosa, more than 90% had been leveled. 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. On a sweltering afternoon last October, with the skies above me full of wildfire smoke, I called Jesse Keenan, an urban-planning and climate-change specialist then at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, who advises the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission on market hazards from climate change. This article, the third in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center.Read Part 1 and Part 2. As former Gov. And if so — if a great domestic relocation might be in the offing — was it possible to project where we might go? Only after the migrants settled and had years to claw back a decent life did some towns bounce back stronger. Eight of the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas — Miami, New York and Boston among them — will be profoundly altered, indirectly affecting some 50 million people. A pandemic-induced economic collapse will only heighten the vulnerabilities and speed the transition, reducing to nothing whatever thin margin of financial protection has kept people in place. Millions will be displaced in the coming decades by fires, hurricanes, extreme heat and rising seas. At that point, the authors write, “abandonment is one option.”. Sign Up; Donate. Eighty years later, Dust Bowl towns still have slower economic growth and lower per capita income than the rest of the country. So it was with some sense of recognition that I faced the fires these last few weeks. This article, the second in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center. 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. In 1950, less than 65% of Americans lived in cities. But this year felt different. Atlanta has started bolstering its defenses against climate change, but in some cases this has only exacerbated divisions. Such a shift in population is likely to increase poverty and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. While the first article in the series focused on the movement of climate refugees across international borders, the latest story focuses on how climate migration within the … by Al Shaw, Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, and Jeremy W. Goldsmith, Special to ProPublica, September 15, 2020. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Once-chilly places like Minnesota and Michigan and Vermont will become more temperate, verdant and inviting. 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. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. 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. You can’t use our work to populate a website designed to improve rankings on search engines or solely to gain revenue from network-based advertisements. You have to credit us. Droughts and floods wreak damage throughout the nation. It can be difficult to see the challenges clearly because so many factors are in play. The sense that money and technology can overcome nature has emboldened Americans. 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. 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. The evidence points to a second Great Migration north, particularly towards the largest cities of the American Northwest and Northeast—only this time for reasons based on climate … I am far from the only American facing such questions. Get our investigations delivered to your inbox with the Big Story newsletter. Rural areas along the coast without a strong tax base? 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. For two years, I have been studying how climate change will influence global migration. Since Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida in 1992 — and even as that state has become a global example of the threat of sea-level rise — more than 5 million people have moved to Florida’s shorelines, driving a historic boom in building and real estate. Relocation no longer seemed like such a distant prospect. 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. 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. In recent years, summer has brought a season of fear to California, with ever-worsening wildfires closing in. The wave begins when individual perception of risk starts to shift, when the environmental threat reaches past the least fortunate and rattles the physical and financial security of broader, wealthier parts of the population. Barrier islands? Read Part 1 … Climate Change Will Make Parts of the U.S. Uninhabitable. Van Leer determined that the fire had jumped through the forest canopy, spawning 70-mile-per-hour winds that kicked a storm of embers into the modest homes of Coffey Park, which burned at an acre a second as homes ignited spontaneously from the radiant heat. Dust Bowl survivors and their children are less likely to go to college and more likely to live in poverty. We do not generally permit translation of our stories into another language. Typically, fire would spread along the ground, burning maybe 50% of structures. Climatic change made them poor, and it has kept them poor ever since. Phoenix, meanwhile, endured 53 days of 110-degree heat — 20 more days than the previous record. The story uses data from Rhodium Group and the Climate Impact Lab, and corresponds with a ProPublica piece featuring interactive maps. The places migrants left behind never fully recovered. My Bay Area neighborhood, on the other hand, has benefited from consistent investment in efforts to defend it against the ravages of climate change. The challenges are so widespread and so interrelated that Americans seeking to flee one could well run into another. Census data shows us how Americans move: toward heat, toward coastlines, toward drought, regardless of evidence of increasing storms and flooding and other disasters. Where money and technology fail, though, it inevitably falls to government policies — and government subsidies — to pick up the slack. How Climate Migration Will Reshape America. Across the country, it’s going to get hot. ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten talks about his most recent article, "How Climate Migration Will Reshape America… It was no surprise, then, that California’s property insurers — having watched 26 years’ worth of profits dissolve over 24 months — began dropping policies, or that California’s insurance commissioner, trying to slow the slide, placed a moratorium on insurance cancellations for parts of the state in 2020. You can’t sell our material separately or syndicate it. Thick smoke produced fits of coughing. But Van Leer, who had spent seven years picking through the debris left by disasters to understand how insurers could anticipate — and price — the risk of their happening again, had begun to see other “impossible” fires. They do it when there is no longer any other choice. A few people asked me about the accuracy of a recent NY Times Magazine / NY Times Daily Podcast story “How Climate Migration Will Reshape America”. This article, the second in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center. There are signs that the message is breaking through. They are distanced from the food and water sources they depend on, and they are part of a culture that sees every problem as capable of being solved by money. In fact, the correction — a newfound respect for the destructive power of nature, coupled with a sudden disavowal of Americans’ appetite for reckless development — had begun two years earlier, when a frightening surge in disasters offered a jolting preview of how the climate crisis was changing the rules. Abrahm Lustgarten, senior environmental reporter with ProPublica, joins host Krys Boyd to talk about projections of global migration patterns modeled just 50 years from now and how they will upend our planet. At the same time, 100 million Americans — largely in the Mississippi River Basin from Louisiana to Wisconsin — will increasingly face humidity so extreme that working outside or playing school sports could cause heatstroke. 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. Then, as now, I packed an ax and a go-bag in my car, ready to evacuate. Then what? Census data show us how Americans move: toward heat, toward coastlines, toward drought, regardless of evidence of increasing storms and flooding and other disasters. The Great Migration — of 6 million Black Americans out of the South from 1916 to 1970 — transformed almost everything we know about America, from the fate of its labor movement to the shape of its cities to the sound of its music. So what will happen to Atlanta — a metro area of 5.8 million people that may lose its water supply to drought and that our data also shows will face an increase in heat-driven wildfires? That Atlanta hasn’t “fully grappled with” such challenges now, said Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, chair of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, means that with more people and higher temperatures, “the city might be pushed to what’s manageable.”. Jerry Brown said, it was beginning to feel like the “new abnormal.”. I live on a hilltop, 400 feet above sea level, and my home will never be touched by rising waters. The cost of resisting the new climate reality is mounting. It will accelerate rapid, perhaps chaotic, urbanization of cities ill-equipped for the burden, testing their capacity to provide basic services and amplifying existing inequities. Even a subtle environmental change — a dry well, say — can mean life or death, and without money to address the problem, migration is often simply a question of survival. By 2100, Hauer estimates, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston and Austin could each receive more than a quarter million new residents as a result of sea-level displacement alone, meaning it may be those cities — not the places that empty out — that wind up bearing the brunt of America’s reshuffling. While they do protect some entrenched and vulnerable communities, the laws also satisfy the demand of wealthier homeowners who still want to be able to buy insurance. If you’re republishing online, you must link to the URL of this story on propublica.org, include all of the links from our story, including our newsletter sign up language and link, and use our. Their decisions will almost inevitably make the nation more divided, with those worst off relegated to a nightmare future in which they are left to fend for themselves. Keenan, who is now an associate professor of real estate at Tulane University’s School of Architecture, had been in the news last year for projecting where people might move to — suggesting that Duluth, Minnesota, for instance, should brace for a coming real estate boom as climate migrants move north. This was precisely the land that my utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, had three times identified as such an imperiled tinderbox that it had to shut off power to avoid fire. The Great Climate Migration by Abrahm Lustgarten for ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine. 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. The Latino, Asian and Black communities who live in the most-vulnerable low-lying districts will be displaced first, but research from Mathew Hauer, a sociologist at Florida State University who published some of the first modeling of American climate migration in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2017, suggests that the toll will eventually be far more widespread: Nearly 1 in 3 people here in Marin County will leave, part of the roughly 700,000 who his models suggest may abandon the broader Bay Area as a result of sea-level rise alone.

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