Will Climate Change Force You to Move?

climate change place quality-of-life Jul 27, 2022
Best Place To Move for Climate Change

Climate change is all over the news. Sweltering heat across America, wildfires in the West, torrential rain in the Midwest, receding glaciers in Alaska. Of course, it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon: parts of England hit record temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and a month-long heat wave in China caused a bridge to buckle due to the heat. While there may be a debate as it how much of climate change is attributed to manmade causes, the evidence is becoming increasingly clear that quality of life is suffering as a result.

These concerns have caused people not only to move, but to specifically seek out the best place to move for climate change. According to a recent Forbes survey, about 30% of Americans cite climate change as a motivator to move this year. Researchers expect that more than half of Americans anticipate that climate change will have a moderate or greater influence on their decision to move in the coming decade.

Bill Gates is optimistic about the future but it may take decades before global emissions are net zero (Source: Penguin Random House)


It’s Likely Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Bill Gates’ New York Times bestselling book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, is a hopeful look at what we can do to slow and, ultimately, stop climate change. He provides a useful framework to better understand the key drivers of climate change. For example, while recycling is symbolically significant, we will need a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels to green energy. Gates envisions technology breakthroughs, which will require substantial private and government funding, as critical for our future. 

Unfortunately, climate change is likely to get worse before it gets better. Gates outlines what needs to be true to eliminate greenhouse gases by 2050. A number of government and government entities, including the U.S., EU, and the UN, have pledged to be net zero by this date. However, even if the world is able to meet this ambitious goal, it suggests that we have nearly thirty years for which climate change will probably be worse with each passing year.


Will Climate Change Force You to Move?

For nearly everyone, climate change is having an impact on where one lives. In some cases, it is clear and obvious, such as with devastating wildfires that impact air quality and threaten the destruction of homes. In other cases, it may be more muted in the near-term, such as with coastal locations. However, in time, rising water levels put coastal homes at significant risk.

Climate change also has second-order effects. For example, in especially hot places like Texas, air conditioning is a necessity. Hotter weather increases the need for electricity to power air conditioning, raising utility bills and the risk of dangerous power outages. In other cases, such as in parts of the Southeast, increasing hurricane risks have made disaster insurance harder to obtain or prohibitively expensive.

Are you aware of how climate change is affecting your place? Do you know how it may change in the future? For you, where is the best place to move for climate change? These are key questions to see if you are in the right place today and in the future. And, if you own your home, the timing of this decision is also important. You don’t want to be in a position to sell your home at the point where others don’t want to live there. In such instances, it is better to move before you may need to.

It may be a good time to take the Right Place, Right Time Assessment.


Florida has swelled with migrants from other states but hurricanes are increasing threat (Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash)


Even if You Move, Expect the Unexpected

If a move is in the offing, don’t think that you’ve shielded yourself from all climate change risk. You may be just exchanging one risk for another. I have a friend who moved from the coast in the Mid-Atlantic based on concerns about rising water levels. She moved to inland Oregon and now faces greater threats of heat waves and wildfires. 

Cities and regions that score most favorably to minimize the negative impact of climate change range from Boston to Pittsburgh to Seattle. The Great Lake region scores well with minimal risk of hurricane and flooding among other factors. There isn't always one "best place to move for climate change," as risk factors develop and change, but you can do your best to find the places with as little risk as possible. 

Regardless of where you choose to stay or move, expect the unexpected. Prudent financial strategies may involve renting instead of owning. If you own your home, you may want to carefully consider ‘what if’ scenarios and what can be done to protect you under various scenarios.

Sadly, climate change will force some people to move. In other cases, it may be one of a number of factors in a discretionary move. For at least the next thirty years it seems – or longer if Bill Gates vision is not realized – climate change will be a key element when determining whether you are in the right place at the right time.


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