Rising Seas May Force U.S. Climate Refugees to the Same 5 Cities
But even if people escape sea-level rise, they’ll have other climate-related dangers to deal with
The year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, over 60,000 families were forced to relocate to other parts of the country. Nearly 10,000 of them ended up in Houston. Since then, thousands more around the U.S. have had to retreat inland because of extreme storms, flooding and sea-level rise linked to climate change. As sea levels rise up to eight feet by the end of the century, climate refugees will increasingly seek shelter away from the coasts.
By 2100, as many as 13 million people in the United States could be forced to move inland, according to a study published in PLOS One in January. And certain cities, the authors of the study argue, must brace themselves to receive the majority of these climate refugees.
Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Las Vegas will be among the most popular relocation destinations, say the researchers, whose machine learning model predicts an influx of hundreds of thousands of climate refugees from America’s Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts by 2100. These cities, all of which besides Houston are landlocked, are already common destinations for people to migrate to for non-climate-related reasons, which the researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) call “business-as-usual” migration.
They will likely see even more people moving inland because, with the exception of Houston, of their distance from the coasts, as well as their ability to offer housing, jobs and infrastructure, all of which the study took into account when factoring in forced migration patterns. Now, officials in these cities must brace for increased demands on water, transportation, energy infrastructure, and housing markets.
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Areas even further inland, however, must also be ready for a shift in population, says study co-author Bistra Dilkina, a computer scientist at…