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Fleeing Global Warming? ‘Climate Havens’ Aren’t Ready Yet

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.Forget the palm trees and warm ocean breeze. The upper Midwest could soon be the most sought-after living destination in the United States.The curb appeal of the Great Lakes region is that it appears to be a relatively safe place to ride out the wild weather of the future. It’s far from the storm-battered Eastern seaboard and buffered from the West’s wildfires and drought, with some of the largest sources of fresh water in the world. The Great Lakes help temper the bitter winds of winter and cool the muggy summer. And rising temperatures are beginning to take some of the bite off that winter weather: Michigan, in fact, is turning into wine country, with vineyards growing warm-weather grapes like pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.Long-simmering speculations about where to hide from climate change picked up in February 2019 when the mayor of Buffalo, New York, declared that the city on Lake Erie’s eastern edge would one day become a “climate refuge.” Two months later, a New York Times article made the case that Duluth, Minnesota, on the western corner of Lake Superior, could be an attractive new home for Texans and Floridians looking to escape blistering temperatures.“In this century, climate migration will be larger, and is already by some measures larger, than political or economic migration,” Parag Khanna, a global strategy advisor, told me over the phone. His recent book, Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, analyzes where people are relocating to and how the “map of humanity” will shift in the coming decades, with an eye toward climate change, politics, jobs, and technology. Khanna is particularly bullish on Michigan. When I mentioned I grew up in northern Indiana a couple of miles south of the Michigan border, he said, “Go back and buy property now. At least, that’s the way some people are interpreting it.”There’s a big market for mapping out where people will live in a hotter climate, with the consensus landing mostly on northern latitudes buffered from rising seas, heat, and drought. These forecasts are already shaping reality, with Great Lakes cities planning for an influx of residents and rich preppers buying bunkers in New Zealand to ride out the apocalypse. Vivek Shandas, who studies climate change and cities at Portland State University, says he regularly gets calls from real estate investors asking where to buy up property.More Americans are moving for jobs and affordable housing than because of climate change, Khanna says. But migration from wildfires, hurricanes, and drought is already well underway. “The global answer is, it’s already happening, right?” Khanna said. “In America, you’re only seeing early signs of it.” Around 25,000 migrants fleeing Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 settled in Orlando, Florida, and as many as 5,000 moved to the proclaimed “climate haven” of Buffalo. Many of the thousands of evacuees from the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, California, relocated to the nearby town of Chico.