How Climate Migration Will Reshape America
An article in the New York Times today highlights how the overlapping effects of climate change-- including wildfires, extreme heat, floods, and storms-- could result in mass migration patterns in the U.S. that could exacerbate poverty and inequality while laying bare the faults of our policies, which make it attractive to build and rebuild homes in risky and resource-constrained regions.
The article specifically discusses state-backed insurance markets, which underwrite home insurance policies with high natural disaster risk, where private insurers would otherwise pull out. Such policies currently exist in 30 states, including in California, allowing growth to continue in areas where scientific research and risk analysis suggest that it should stop.
"Until now, the market mechanisms had essentially socialized the consequences of high-risk development," says the article. "But as the costs rise — and the insurers quit, and the bankers divest, and the farm subsidies prove too wasteful, and so on — the full weight of responsibility will fall on individual people."
In the Bay Area and elsewhere, the potential for a climate-induced housing market collapse, exacerbated by the economic impacts of COVID-19, underscores the importance of further aligning our land use decisions and planning with climate hazards and the long-term availability of natural resources.