Does the Biggest Migration in US History Loom?

'Inhospitable' conditions could force millions north
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2020 2:11 PM CDT
Does the Biggest Migration in US History Loom?
George Coble walks through what remains of his property destroyed by a wildfire Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Mill City, Ore.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

Researchers have mapped the likely effects of climate change on the US in the decades to come—and it's bad news for most people in the southern half of the country. Under even moderate warning scenarios, the areas most suited to agriculture and human habitation will have shifted from the Southeast toward the upper Midwest by 2070. Heat, drought, flooding, and wildfire could cause enormous economic losses and the "mass migration of Americans away from distress in much of the southern and coastal regions of the country," according to a ProPublica analysis of the data. The Great Plains and northern Midwest, meanwhile, "will benefit, in farm productivity, in economy, and in overall comfort."

"The challenges are so widespread and so interrelated that Americans seeking to flee one could well run into another," writes Abrahm Lustgarten at the New York Times. He predicts that climate change will cause a decline in the quality of the environment of at least 160 million Americans—and if even a tenth of them move, it will be the biggest migration in US history, dwarfing the migration from the "Dust Bowl" in the 1930s. But while the increasingly inhospitable southern half of the country suffers, "vast regions will prosper," he predicts. "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," Lustgarten writes. (More climate change stories.)

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