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Lucas Waldron/ProPublica

Climate Change Will Make Parts of the U.S. Uninhabitable. Americans Are Still Moving There.

Instead of moving away from areas in climate crisis, Americans are flocking to them. As land in places like Phoenix, Houston and Miami becomes less habitable, the country’s migration patterns will be forced to change.

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Over the past year, the advent of a professional economy powered by people working from home has quickened the conversation about where to live, particularly among millennials. “Is now the right time to buy property in Minnesota?” “Is Buffalo the new place to be?”

How important is proximity to fresh water? Should you risk moving somewhere that has fire seasons? How far north do you have to go to find liveable summers?

Americans have defied the norms of climate migration seen elsewhere in the world, flocking to cities like Phoenix, Houston and Miami that face some of the greatest risks from soaring temperatures and rising sea levels.

Those patterns seem likely to change.

New data from the Rhodium Group, analyzed by ProPublica, shows that climate damage will wreak havoc on the southern third of the country, erasing more than 8% of its economic output and likely turning migration from a choice to an imperative.

The data shows that the warming climate will alter everything from how we grow food to where people can plausibly live. Ultimately, millions of people will be displaced by flooding, fires and scorching heat, a resorting of the map not seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Now as then, the biggest question will be who escapes and who is left behind.

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Portrait of Lucas Waldron

Lucas Waldron

Lucas Waldron is ProPublica’s visual investigations producer.

Portrait of Abrahm Lustgarten

Abrahm Lustgarten

Abrahm Lustgarten covers energy, water, climate change and anything else having to do with the environment for ProPublica.

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