These US cities could be the best for escaping the worst impacts of climate change
With escalating home insurance rates and more frequent flooding from rising sea levels and extreme rainfall, some potential buyers are asking more questions about climate impacts before taking out a $30 mortgage. years.
Economists, flood experts and others often consider which cities might be safest from the impacts of long-term climate change, considering factors such as flood risk, sustainability and preparedness to make communities more resilient.
But safety is in the eye of the beholder.
The truth is that every place has its risks, said Steve Bowen, chief scientific officer and meteorologist at Gallagher Re, a global reinsurance broker.
“You have to understand by nature that there is no safe place in the country,” Bowen said. “It’s about choosing the type of risk you want to be exposed to.”
Across the country, people are grappling with rapid changes between drought and extreme rain, warming temperatures and severe storms that produce hail, rain and tornadoes, Bowen said.
More extreme weather events aren’t the only thing driving up insurance rates, but they will increase pressure on the market and could force people to leave their homes and send them in search of less risky places to live. live.
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Climate migration already underway
It looks like people are already moving away from the coast in states like North Carolina and Louisiana, and that pace is expected to increase, said Jesse Keenan, an economist and associate professor of sustainable real estate at Tulane University who studies urban and infrastructure planning.
Keenan once referred to Duluth, Minnesota, in a presentation as “America’s most climate-resilient city (sort of)” and to his amusement, the suggested slogan – among several he presented – is stay. Although the slogan keeps resurfacing in news stories and conversations, other cities also hold promise as climate change, natural disasters and other stressors force homeowners to move indoors. lands.
While conducting research, he and his research team came up with a list of cities that might be the best bets. Communities are distinguished by a combination of their geographies, their economies and what they have done to prepare for the changes ahead, he said.
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Here are the top cities on Keenan’s list:
- Duluth, Minnesota
- Orlando, Florida
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Knoxville, TN
- Charlottesville, Virginia
- Lynchburg, Virginia
- Johnson City, TN
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Syracuse, NY
- Buffalo, NY
- Toledo, Ohio
- Green Bay, Wis.
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Orlando also surfaced on a list published by Architectural Digest, taking into account elevation, population, extreme weather, risk and preparedness scores, clean energy and air quality. . Only one city on a coast made the list: Seattle. Others were:
- Denver, Colorado
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Milwaukee, Wis.
- Austin, TX
- Columbus, Ohio
- Orlando, Florida
- Atlanta, Georgia
Climate change is a factor when people consider moving
Orlando has long been seen by investors as potentially “the big beneficiary of an exodus of people” as Southeast Florida “essentially depopulates toward central Florida,” Keenan said.
He heard from people in some towns, like Asheville, North Carolina, who say they are already seeing an influx of people from the coastal regions. It may be a small number, but it resonates with locals, he said.
“People don’t wake up in the morning and say I’m moving because of climate change,” Keenan said. “They wake up and make a very complex set of decisions that weigh on many factors and climate change is one of those factors. It’s about jobs, family ties, school districts and all these other things that usually result in relocation.”
Sea level rise
One thing is certain, sea level rise is accelerating, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Sea levels have risen about a foot in the past 100 years, and the pace has accelerated in recent decades, William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer, said during a May briefing by Sciline, a service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Basically, the United States is heading for about a foot of sea level rise over the next 30 years, Sweet said. “Sea level rise continues to climb and rage among our infrastructure.”
“A little sea level rise is a big contributor to the kinds of impacts that are really starting to grow by leaps and bounds,” Sweet said. The change is most evident not in the number of huge floods, he said, but in the localized minor floods that are happening more and more often.
“It’s not just weighing on people’s minds, but it’s weighing on commerce and movement within communities,” Sweet said. Town centers are flooded. People don’t shop.
In Norfolk, Virginia, for example, minor flooding occurred approximately five times per year in 2020. By 2050, moderate flooding will occur five to 10 times per year.
Lack of flood risk awareness
Flood insurance expert Joe Rossi thinks a lot about it. He advises people on flood risks and tells clients the cost of their new insurance policy for a recently purchased property on the seafront.
Any potential for flooding should be a big red flag, Rossi said. “Every day I see a lack of risk awareness.”
Extreme precipitation events in the central and eastern United States are a growing cause for concern, he said. “From a risk perspective, you’re probably better off in areas that aren’t prone to flooding from extreme rainfall.”
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He suggests inland areas in Maine, New Hampshire, or the Carolinas, but not in the mountains or on a closed-basin lake where the water has no place to go but up.
“I hate to say it, but I’m not going to buy on the coast,” he said. “And I probably won’t go anywhere that has landslide and erosion issues. Anything near a stream or river will be a big no.”
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