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Is the climate crisis dictating where people move?

Is the climate crisis dictating where people move?

Is the climate crisis dictating where people are moving?

Jamie Alexander said she’ll never forget the Camp Fire. The wildfires of 2018 85 people were killedNorthern California saw thousands of homes destroyed and thick smoke fill the air.

“The air quality in San Francisco was, like, in the hazardous category for two weeks straight. And [it] just had considerable health impacts on my kids,” Alexander said.

So, when the pandemic hit in 2020 and another bad wildfire season was forecast, Alexander’s family hopped in their camper van and headed for Minnesota. Alexander, who works at a climate change nonprofit and her husband, had jobs that allowed them both to work remotely.

They landed in Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior. They wanted to ride the summer out, but at first they were only going to do it.

But “we just fell in love with it here,” Alexander said. She also remembered that California’s air quality was terrible in that year. So they made the decision to make the move permanent.

More people are choosing where their home should reside now that the idea of working from home has become more common. Some people feel safer in places that are protected from the impacts of climate changes, such as Duluth.  

Alexander’s family bought a house in Duluth right on the lake.

“I did get into paddleboarding this summer, which is not something I ever expected I would do,” she said. She never fathomed she’d live on a lake, “but it’s pretty amazing.”

Alexander is one of the many people who moved to Duluth over the past few years, at most in part due to climate change.

Jesse KeenanTulane University in New Orleans conducts research on climate migration. Alexander first visited Duluth in 1995, while he was at Harvard.

As climate conditions worsen, experts like Keenan say more people will leave places like California for locales with more moderate climates — especially now that remote work is common.

“There is a cohort of Americans who have the means, the resources, and they have the elective mobility to be on the move,” Keenan said.

But When Keenan first visited Duluth to discuss the idea — complete with pithy marketing slogans for the city, like “Climate-proof Duluth” — locals were skeptical. Karen Pagel Guerndt is a real estate agent who recalls the moment she heard about it. It was mid-winter, and the temperature was just 20 below zero.

“And so to me, the whole idea of climate migration for folks coming here, it kind of made me laugh,” she said.

Then people started calling. She’s since worked with clients from North Carolina to Utah who cite climate change as one of the reasons for choosing Duluth, a small city of about 86,000.  

There’s no data to show how many of those people there actually are. Adam Fulton who directs economic and planning development for the city said more telecommuters are working in Duluth. And he’s hearing lots of stories about people moving in from out of state.

“There are multiple offers coming in sight unseen for properties that, you know, previously might have sat on the market,” he said.

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That raises a potential problem for places like Duluth, where there’s a shortage of affordable housing. The median house selling price In the past year, it rose by 10%To $240,000  

Fulton stated that the city is expanding the range of housing options available to both locals and newcomers.

People say that they consider climate change when deciding where they will move. Redfin is an online property site.. Many of them end up moving to Arizona and Florida, which are experiencing severe climate impacts.

“I think it’s mostly just a select group of people who are maybe they’re the ones who’ve been personally impacted by climate change that are making the move based on that decision,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather.

However, no one place is immune to the impacts of climate change. Minnesota was blanketed last summer with smoke from wildfires in Canada.

Doug Kouma, a Duluth resident who moved there two years ago after dealing in Northern California’s wildfires, flooding, and other problems, said that he knows many Californians who are considering similar moves.

“I think Duluth as a climate migration hub is already a thing,” Kouma said. “I think we’re just starting to recognize it. And I think two, three, five years from now, it’s going be what Duluth will likely be known for.”

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