Americans Move to "Climate Havens" to Avoid Natural Disasters

Americans Move to "Climate Havens" to Avoid Natural Disasters

As coastal cities like San Francisco, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles become more expensive and threatened by the effects of climate change, many Americans are starting to consider moving to a “climate haven” instead. Located in places that evade the most destructive extreme weather, “Climate havens” are cities that also have the infrastructure to accommodate an influx of new residents.

Current climate havens include Rochester and Buffalo, NY; Ann Arbor and Detroit, MI; Minneapolis and Duluth, MN; Madison and Milwaukee, WI; Pittsburgh, PA; Orlando, FL; Burlington, VT; and Asheville, NC.

Why This Matters

According to the latest IPCC report, billions of people are already impacted by heatwaves, floods, and wildfires. As the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt, the UN body warns that governments must embrace "transformational" change. They will need to rethink how they build cities, grow food, and produce energy.

The natural environment is certainly one factor in determining whether or not a city is a climate haven. Cities also have to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability beyond their locations and natural surroundings. Duluth, for example, invested $200 million into improving its shoreline protections and wastewater system, and Cincinnati made plans to cut carbon emissions and house climate migrants.

Social Justice And Revitalization

In order to be given “haven city” status, the municipality must be fighting both rising housing costs and gentrification, which in turn only magnify environmental racism. It’s also important that these places present sustainable economic conditions and practices to avoid repeating actions that led to the climate crisis in the first place. Good infrastructure, affordable housing, public transportation, and walkability are all important parts of sustainable cities.

“I see climate migration as an opportunity for these cities to avoid the mistakes of urban sprawl,” Anna Marandi, who served as the program manager of climate resilience and sustainability at the National League of Cities, told CNBC. “They often have a vibrant, walkable downtown that might just need a little bit of revitalization.

ProPublica: How the Climate Crisis Will Force A Massive American Migration, November 10, 2020.

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

World Bank: The Human Toll of Climate Change | Taking Action on Internal Climate Migration, September 13, 2021.