As states across the country begin to feel the impact of climate change, a quarter of a million people have moved in search of a more stable environment, according to a new study by moving service HireAHelper. In that study, Cook County ranked the 7th most desirable destination for climate related moves. Taking the top three slots are Maricopa County, Arizona; Los Angeles County, California; and Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.
Most of the people who have already moved have done so from the state of Texas according to the study, but is the Midwest the climate haven many believe it to be?
Sabrina Shaikh is the director of the program on Global Environment and a professor with the University of Chicago’s Environmental and Urban Studies. She says that the Midwest doesn’t face the same level of climate threats felt by coastal cities. However, Chicago is not free of the impact of climate change.
“The Midwest, and cities like Chicago face significant challenges related to the predicted increase in the amount and intensity of rainfall and localized flooding, as well as extreme urban heat events, Shaikh said.”
As more people leave coastal cities across the U.S. for cities in the Midwest, it begs the question, how will this impact those environments?
Karen Weigert is the director of the Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise and Responsibility at Loyola University Chicago. Weigert says that climate change is an accelerant to instability.
“From a climate change standpoint, population growth will drive some level of emissions growth. This raises the question overall on any existing pressures or opportunities that pre-existed,” Weigert said.
Shaikh says there isn’t hard evidence of migration just yet and that interpreting this data as an influx in climate migration strokes a fear that isn’t real.
“How Midwestern cities prepare for this will have a big impact on what happens, and the burden of these impacts will be greatly disproportionate unless we plan for it and pay attention to the conditions that have led to urban, environmental and health injustices,” Shaikh said.
Weigert says climate change will impact the entire nation, though how it does will differ.
“The key topic here is to address climate change and not have a mass migration. We need to think about the actions to reduce emissions for all of us.”