American Refuges: How Climate Change Might Force US Migration North And Where They Could Go – Newsweek

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren welcomes migrants.




As the earth heats up from above and below forcing entire ecosystems from flora and fauna to insets, birds and fish, to seek higher and cooler ground, such as the northern United States, Jamaican environment advocate Joe Issa, says humans should “take heed, or face the wrath of fiercer hurricanes and rising temperature and sea levels.”

Issa, who has spoken about the vulnerability of small island states to global warming and has supported the global ‘1.5 to stay alive’ campaign, declares he is not a scientist, but believes “global warming is real and living species are reacting to it, warning of greater natural disasters to come.”


Coolcorp’s head, Joe Issa


Issa was sharing a discussion about the possibility, or reality, that in the near future residents along the eastern seaboard and Florida could be seeking higher ground, creating a new wave of American climate refugees.

The discussion was sparked in Duluth, in the northern state of Minnesota, by Jesse Keenan, a faculty member of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard College, when he recently opened the floodgates to the idea that certain places may be prime to hordes of people fleeing Mother Nature’s wild side.

According to Newsweek, Keenan told The Duluth News Tribune, that Duluth was one of a few cities that could draw an onslaught of so-called “immigrants.” Buffalo, New York was another.


He touched on how humans may soon have to follow the lead of other creatures.

“What we understand is the northern migration of flora and fauna, fisheries and everything else in the Northern Hemisphere…. They’re moving north slowly,” he said. “So why wouldn’t people also do that?” Keenan said, according to The Duluth News Tribune, before partaking in the panel discussion for “Our Climate Futures: Meeting the Challenge in Duluth”.

It’s not just fish that are being watched and heading for cooler dwellings, but caribou, birds, insects and even plants. “Every organism has a certain set of conditions where it’s comfortable to live and reproduce,” Patrick Schoff, a biologist at the University of Minnesota Duluth reportedly told Newsweek.

That means it’s only natural to go where those conditions are met. And with the depletion of polar ice caps, dark sun-absorbing rocks are causing more heat and the changes are happening at warp speed.

“Biology is used to moving, but it’s not used to moving at the speed that we’re forcing it to,” he was quoted as saying.


This situation makes finding homes away from homes all the more crucial.

Lovely Warren, the mayor of Rochester, New York, reportedly described her city, where around 210,000 live, as “one of the snowiest cities in the country.” With 99 inches dumping a year, it competes on that score with big cities like Chicago or Minneapolis.

The city had already welcomed “a significant number” of displaced residents from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria tore through the island, and the mayor encourages the numbers in a city already hit with population decreases as manufacturing giants left and their workers with them. What she hopes for is a resurgence the likes of Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb—which all got their start in Rochester, the article said.

“Increasing our tax base will lead to more jobs and a more vibrant community for our businesses and residents, and we welcome an influx of citizens for any reason,” she reportedly wrote.

“Rochester was a city that had over 300,000 residents at one point – so we have ample housing stock to handle this,” she was quoted as saying.


The movement of a species—be it human or bird or insect—can cause adverse effects.

“If you increase a population by a certain amount, you increase the stress on everything including the food deliveries, infrastructure, water, streets and transportation,” Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Newsweek.

Dahl is seeing telltale signs of migration to the Northern Hemisphere. But some folks living in particularly vulnerable places are going to have a tough time selling a home whose worth is already sinking under water.

She pointed to Miami, where scientists are studying residential homes “exposed to flooding and appreciating at lower rates than those that don’t have that same flood risk.”

“There will be places within the next 30 years or so that would be significantly impacted by sea level rise,” she reportedly said.

This could render into dead zones some parts of the country where it’s too hot or too wet to stay.

Memories of super storm Sandy which struck over Halloween in 2012 is still fresh. The East Coast was decimated by biblical storm surges that killed 117 people. Twenty-two of those deaths were in Staten Island, the report said.


Save for a few stragglers, the Oakwood Beach community is virtually gone. Many relocated out of New York and their homes razed, transformed into open space.

It is said that anyone who sold a home to the state, [it’s] back to nature forever. This back-to-the-land transformation witnessed in Oakwood Beach is repeating itself in southern swaths of Louisiana and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which scientists believe are also becoming tough places to live.

Kevin Dorn is city manager in South Burlington, Vermont. Climate change could wreak havoc for some 19,000 denizens because of the city’s reliance on maple syrup production, which is climate sensitive.

Change of venue may give some protections from the elements—but clearly not everywhere, and not necessarily for long. Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, reportedly warned that there is only so far we as humans can run.

The article said there have been migrations in the past, citing the massive movement of people West to escape from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. And throughout the earlier 20th century, millions of African-Americans fled the South in the Great Migration North.

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