How to Build a Climate Haven Amid Climate Migration

In the future, when climate change makes life at home unbearable, the Great Lakes region might just be where people move. Climate migration is a process already underway in North America. Examples include the more than 100,000 people who left Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, and the thousands who resettled 20 minutes west of Paradise, California following the Camp Fire blaze. According to Grist, there are ways to improve this movement and relocation of people -- a number only expected to grow. These ways include:

  • Determine what a "climate haven" is: Nowhere on Earth will be untouched by climate change, but some places will be more manageable than others. The Great Lakes region faces heavy flooding and temperature fluctuations but won’t face intensifying hurricanes or wildfires.
  • Prioritize people: Cities expecting an influx of migration should put housing policies in place that can help prevent gentrification -- and remember that "migrants are not a tool to an end," as Susan Ekoh, an adaptation fellow at the America Society of Adaptation Professionals told Grist. Climate migrants should receive the support they need as they establish a new home.
  • Build smart: Don't contribute to the climate crisis and build dense housing linked by public transit. Retrofit old buildings, which is often less resource-intensive than building new. Don't build in flood plains, and don't build new urban heat islands: keep trees, build parks.

Why This Matters

Right now, most Americans choose to move in search of work and affordable housing. But by mid-century, as many as 143 million people are expected to make a move because of climate change -- and their work and housing could very well be impacted, too. Climate migration is already underway and will only accelerate. Cities expecting to see large population increases have an opportunity now to strategize development and planning to prepare for newcomers.

Amanpour and Company (PBS): The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, May 24, 2021.

Climate Migration on a Global Scale

Of course, climate change is global and so is climate-driven migration. According to a study earlier this year, 1.2 billion people across 31 countries could be displaced by 2050 because of the climate crisis. The study by the Institute for Economics and Peace noted that water and food scarcity coupled with higher risk of natural disaster would drive the migration.

As Steve Killelea, the institute's founder, told the Guardian: "Ecological threats pose serious challenges to global peace. Over the next 30 years, lack of access to food and water will only increase without urgent global cooperation. In the absence of action, civil unrest, riots and conflict will most likely increase."

WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis (September 10, 2020).