Experts Warn of Mass Migrations in as Little as 30 Years as America Grapples With Changing Climate

The Oak Park Motel was destroyed by the flames of the Beachie Creek Fire east of Salem, Ore., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (Rob Schumacher/Statesman-Journal via AP, Pool)

By Elle Meyers

September 15, 2020

New research model shows large swaths of the United States will become uninhabitable due to rising heat, humidity, and sea levels.

Americans are already living the hardships that come with climate change, and experts warn Americans will have to migrate north as large swaths of the country become uninhabitable in as little as 30 years. 

This year has offered unrelenting proof that climate change is altering America. Much of the country has suffered through extreme weather events, like a record number of hurricanes, flooding, drought, and massive wildfires.

Experts warn that left unchecked, climate change will completely alter America as we know it. According to new data from the Rhodium Group, a research company based in New York, increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will drive agricultural communities northward and sea level changes will eat up American coastlines. 

In other words, America is facing a massive migration crisis brought about by climate change. 

“In recent years, summer has brought a season of fear to California, with ever-worsening wildfires closing in. But this year felt different. The hopelessness of the pattern was now clear, and the pandemic had already uprooted so many Americans,” Abraham Lustgarten wrote in the New York Times. “Relocation no longer seemed like such a distant prospect.”

Heat is one of the most noticeable effects of climate change, and one of the biggest drivers behind climate migration. The Rhodium Group estimates that under an extreme warming scenario, much of the South and Southwest will experience extreme temperatures between 2040 and 2060. And the southern United States already sees unlivable high temperatures during the summer months. California’s Death Valley this year recorded perhaps the highest temperature on earth, 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Experts warn that places like Arizona could experience temperatures above 95 degrees for half the year. 

Heat is also a contributing factor to lengthening wildfire seasons which residents of California, Oregon, and Washington can already attest. Major forest fires have raged in the three West Coast states destroying whole communities and experts argue that wildfires could become more prevalent in places like Florida and Georgia and the climate continues to change. 

Humidity is a less known but equally important driving factor for where people choose to live. The combination of heat and humidity is often uncomfortable but still relatively rare in extreme forms. However, experts predict that by 2050 parts of the Midwest and Louisiana could see conditions that make summers not just uncomfortable but unbearable. 

“By 2050 parts of the Midwest and Louisiana could see conditions that make it difficult for the human body to cool itself for nearly one out of every 20 days in the year,” ProPublica wrote in a summary of the Rhodium Group’s findings. 

Experts agree that without major changes to slow climate change and mitigate its risks the US will look very different in 50 years as residents flee areas that are no longer habitable in the long term. 

“Across the United States, some 162 million people — nearly one in two — will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water,” Lustgarten wrote. “If carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, at least four million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life.”


CATEGORIES: Environment


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