Coastal city residents are not the only people who should be directly concerned about climate change driven sea level rise. With a displacement number as high as 13.1 million people, we must logically think about where those sea level rise refugees will go. And according to a recently published study in Nature Climate Change, Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix are the top cities that should be aware of the surge of coastal immigrants.
(Above: Estimated net migrants (in-migrants minus out-migrants) for counties and core based statistical areas under the 1.8 m scenario and no adaptation. Photo: Nature)
The new study looks at estimates of populations at risk from sea-level rise within a migrations systems simulation in order to determine the number and destinations of potential sea-level rise migrations in the U.S. over the coming century.
Although there has been much research into sea level rise and the best ways to go about preparing for the future (i.e. what infrastructure needs to be built or changed), previously there has been little investigation into where migrants would move to.
"We typically think about sea level rise as a coastal issue, but if people are forced to move because their houses become inundated, the migration could affect many landlocked communities as well," said the study's lead author, Mathew Hauer, who completed his doctoral degree in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of geography.
Globally we have seen and continue to see how environmental stressors directly cause conflict, including but not limited to migration. In certain circumstances, migration may be temporary, but in the case of sea level rise, habitable land will become permanently uninhabitable, explains Phys. This will undoubtedly cause crowding issues, and with them even more scarcity for valuable resources.
"Some of the anticipated landlocked destinations, such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Riverside, California, already struggle with water management or growth management challenges," Hauer said. "Incorporating accommodation strategies in strategic long-range planning could help alleviate the potential future intensification of these challenges."