Climate migration and how Warren County is working to ensure future stability

As drought persists and ocean levels rise, as many as 1 billion people could be forced from their homelands by 2050, RAND Corporation reports.

Among the many dangers of global climate change are looming food shortages, energy crises and extreme weather events. When rain to nourish crops doesn’t fall or chronic floods make it impossible for coastal residents to rebuild, we can expect climate migration, or people relocating because of persistent hardship caused by the environmental crisis, the study said.

Our nation is no stranger to the concept. The Dust Bowl, or severe drought in the 1930s, forced a mass exodus from the Great Plains, the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and parts of New Mexico. The 2020 wildfires in Oregon drove people from their homes, some short term, but others permanently, as towns were destroyed by fire. On the California side of Lake Tahoe, warmer weather shortened ski season, greatly reducing jobs in the ski industry and resulting in economic-driven migration. 

While our region is largely protected from many of the causes of climate migration — rising sea levels; extended drought; extreme weather in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and tsunamis; unrest over lack of resources — but could be impacted by an influx of migrants seeking refuge.

Many of the improvements we are making to our region — strengthened infrastructure, a healthy economy, increased housing opportunities, a robust job market — are to ensure future stability and, while we certainly didn’t set out to prepare for an influx of climate migrants, we will be that much more ready for them should they come.