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Climate Change Will Force People to Move. We Need to Find Out Where They’ll Go


As the risk of severe climate change rises, and efforts to reduce carbon emissions ramp up, serious thought must also be given to the movement of people that climate change stands to provoke. This migration looks to be disruptive, but it may also significantly affect the long-term economic consequences of climate change — and not necessarily for the worse.

Many studies have found reason to assume that people will relocate in response to climate change. A recent analysis by Jamie Mullins of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Prashant Bharadwaj of the University of California at San Diego, for example, found “substantial and significant effects of extreme temperatures on outmigration rates.” The researchers estimate that every additional day per year with an average temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit could lead to almost a 1% increase in the migration rate. (That may sound alarmingly large, but note that the migration rate itself averages about 5% of the population, so a 1% increase means it rises from 5% to 5.05%. Also, the effect is diminishing, so a second day above 90 degrees has a smaller impact than the first day.)

Such movement of people will be costly, but it can also help […]

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