Recently, a new IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was released. It had sobering if not unexpected conclusions on the rate of global climate change. For those who are downsizing to a new location, you may want to reconsider the location. The best places to live considering climate change may become a very hot real estate commodity sooner than expected.
The idea of taking climate change into consideration may sound a bit extreme. Nevertheless, it has been something that has been at the back of my mind for my own relocation plans. I wasn’t really planning on including this relocation issue on this website but changed my mind for the reasons described below.
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Why did I decide this topic was important?
The new report prompted this post because the climate is changing faster than predicted.
I started following this issue in the 1990s when I was working in an immunology lab. This gave me access to many journal articles and I read quite a bit of the original research. Contrary to what some elements of the media have been fanning, the warming models have been spot-on. 20/20 hindsight is very clarifying. The proponents of warming were right. Basically, what they told us would happen over 20 years ago, is happening.
The only thing the climate theories got wrong in the 1990s was the timing. The changes we are seeing now were predicted for c2050 and beyond. Climate change is advancing a lot faster than initially predicted. The latest IPCC report confirmed some of my own casual observations. The IPCC is now projecting the strong risk of a climate change crisis before 2040. The new time-frame for a potential crisis makes this topic relevant to those considering a home purchase.
Who should consider climate change when making a move…
For some, consideration of best places to live considering climate change is not practical. Obviously, if you are moving for a specific job, climate change isn’t even going to be on the table. It can’t be. The same holds if you are moving to be closer to family and friends. If you are renting a home, climate change can be lower on your list of concerns. If you are only planning to live in your new location for five years or less, it should be low on the list of issues.
A lot of downsizers’ heading towards retirement look towards warmer climates. If you have your heart set on a waterfront property in a warm location along a coast or on an island, you might want to do some research. If erosion of a coastline literally takes your house with it, can you afford the loss?
No matter what your age or timeline, a home purchase is a major investment. You are buying a location as well as a house. Real estate values are based on three primary factors – location, location, and location. If the region you move to suffers a major climate crisis, the value of the land that you are heavily invested in can tank. Unlike the housing crisis of 2008, that value is not likely to recover. On the flip side, regions that prove to be resilient to climate change will experience price increases. So it does matter.
Go north, young man…
During the 19th century, opportunity lay to the west. Today, it appears that heading north is probably the wisest move. If you crave a warmer climate, there are some notable exceptions which I will discuss in a future post. For those who are thinking of relocating due north, it is more than just moving a few degrees north and staking your claim. Climate is a tricky thing and nothing is set in stone with these models, but you can get a sense of general trends.
Over the past 10 days, I’ve done a good deal of research on the current models. What areas are looking good? Which areas should we avoid? There is no set answer. However, if you are interested in the general consensus, read on.
The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative recently released the vulnerability to climate change rankings of 181 countries. The 15 least vulnerable countries had relatively few surprises.
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
Northern Europe is heavily represented including 4 Scandinavian countries. Canada, Iceland, and the United States are also on the list. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Singapore because it certainly has some inherent vulnerabilities. Larger countries like the U.S. and Canada will have varying vulnerabilities depending on the region. Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East don’t fare very well. China ranks #59 while Russia ranks #33.
None of this means that these countries are immune from negative impact. For example, the United Kingdom is expected to have a fairly dramatic increase in flooding. This particularly true of cities like London that are located on rivers. Helsinki, Finland also has a major water issue. Cities like Stockholm, Sweden will likely see significant temperature spikes. These countries are in “less bad” shape. They have favorable locations combined with the revenue to invest in the necessary changes to survive.
Since the United States and Canada are two of the largest countries in this zone of resilient nations, these two nations will be discussed in greater detail below.
The United States is a conglomeration of climates and climate change issues…
The United States is in a unique position. Its climate spans a range of climates from hot desert to arctic tundra and several more in between.
In general, the south-east will be baked in heat and high humidity. If you like 100F+ temperatures with 95% humidity, then the southeastern US will be perfect for you. Hurricanes in this region will be more frequent and dangerous. Worse still, the southern portion of Florida is on a trajectory to being given back to the ocean. The EPA counts this region as the least resilient to climate change. Ironically, some states in this part of the country are among the most popular destinations for retirees. These include NC, SC, GA, and FL.
The east coast, in general, will face increasingly violent and dangerous hurricanes even as far north as Boston. Rising sea levels will threaten coastal areas. However, parts of the northeast stretching inland to the eastern portion of the northern Midwest will probably be quite resilient to the effects of climate change. This region will be considered separately.
The Gulf Coast…
The Gulf Coast will also be in the bull’s eye for powerful hurricanes, not to mention blistering heat. In many ways, the changes along the Gulf Coast will be similar to those of the southeast.
This region will be hot and drought-ridden. Water shortages will be severe in this part of the country. Wildfires will also increase in number and strength due to a combination of higher temperatures and a dry climate.
The northwest will probably fare better than most regions of the country. The Pacific Northwest is less prone to the hurricanes that plague the east coast. In northern regions west of the rocky mountains, there is more humidity, fresh water, and rainfall. This will help this region avoid the droughts and wildfire hazards that will be increasing in intensity along the west coast.
Tornados have always been an issue in the U.S. How climate change will impact Tornado activity is not yet clear. You can view the tornado-prone states on this map. I included tornados as a climate consideration because they are weather events that have a devastating impact. There is no consensus among climate scientists about if or how climate change will impact tornado activity.
The Great Lakes Region…
This area is considered by many to be a major sweet spot. One of the biggest that some regions will encounter is a lack of fresh water. Increased temperatures will impact areas that rely on snow packs from higher elevations for their water supply. Warmer weather also increases evaporation. As a result, water will become a very valuable commodity.
The Great Lakes are an enormous source of fresh water. They also tend to create their own weather. People who live in this region know all about “lake effect snow”. The Great Lakes create precipitation which will be very important going forward. Because the Great Lakes are located in the northernmost portion of the United States, temperatures, though higher, will not be unbearable. Other issues such as mosquito infestations are less likely in this region as well. Since mosquitoes are often vectors for disease, this another big advantage of the region.
North of the 42nd Parallel…
Within the U.S. there appear to be two regions that climatologists see as relatively resilient to the impact of climate change. The first are areas inland of the northeast coastline and extending west through the Great Lakes region. The second is the northwest region of the country west of the Rocky Mountains.
As it happens, both of these regions lie at or above the 42nd parallel. The 42nd parallel divides New York from Pennsylvania and marks the southern borders of both Idaho and Oregon.
Where can you relocate to if you want to move to a climate change resilient area?
The Canadian climate is naturally more resilient to climate change than the United States…
In a world where the planet is warming, Canada is in a good position. Its borders are well north of the 42nd parallel and range from a cooler temperate climate to true arctic conditions. Nevertheless, some of its variables mirror its neighbor to the south. The Vice media had a provocative piece on how climate change could turn Canada into a superpower. The article sites several major points. One being that as the year 2100 approaches the average temperature for Canada would be at an optimal 13C (or 55 F) which is apparently optimal for human productivity. The ice melt could open up new routes in the Arctic ocean and agriculture could potentially extend further north. Canada also controls about 20% of the earth’s fresh water – a very valuable commodity as the planet warms.
The point here is that although Canada is known for its cold weather now, rising temperatures are going to make that northern climate increasingly desirable and accessible.
Canada has similar climate patterns to the United States…
The province of British Columbia is somewhat similar to the Pacific northeast of the U.S. The southern region is a continuation of that climate. When you move east toward the Rockies, you get a much drier climate in the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. These areas are a great deal will be somewhat similar to the western states of the U.S. It is predicted that they will have an increased incidence of wildfires and drought. The southern regions of Ontario and Quebec are predicted to be protected by the Great Lakes, just like their southern counterparts. Coastal regions and the islands to the east will be subject to the same high seas and land erosion that the east coast of the United States will be impacted by.
In short, the two most favorable regions in the south of Canada will be just north of their sister regions in the U.S. At least, that’s what the climate models indicate.
There is a remarkable reference for Canadians. The Climate Atlas of Canada has an amazingly interactive map of Canada with predictions for individual cities and provinces regarding temperature, precipitation, the number of very hot days and tropical nights. It’s really quite amazing and I admit that I spent way too much time playing with it.
This is going to be part 1 of a 2-part series. Initially, this was going to be one long post, but it was becoming way too long. The 2nd part of the series will outline some specific regions and cities rate as resilient areas for climate change, which is probably what downsizers are most interested in.
Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change – The visual guide to the findings of the IPCC. This book explains global climate change and the work and methodology of the IPCC. It is a great guide to global climate change and its implications. There are major sections on the projections for climate change as well as its impacts. There are also sections on vulnerabilities and adaptation to climate change. Different remediation proposals are also discussed.
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