The following are notes I took from the "Where to Live" chapter of David Pogue's book "How to Prepare for Climate Change". If you are thinking about what life in your area may be like in the coming years of climate chaos, or are considering where it might make sense to move in the US with climate as a consideration, I'd highly recommend picking up the book and actually reading the chapter.

Actually, this is just one of many very useful chapters, and regardless of your future plans to move or not move, you should probably get the book and read it.

# The Four Rules

Pogue lists four rules to use as criteria for determining where to live. The principles in the book could apply to anyone in the Northern hemisphere, but it is distinctly US-focused in terms of specific discussions on regions, cities, and likely climate impacts.

# Rule 1: Get away from oceans.

This one is not just whether your own house floods, but whether essential infrastructure near you floods or is damaged by hurricanes.

NOAA predicts up to 8 feet of sea level rise by 2100. See how that translates to a map of possible sea level rise.

Keep in mind human decisions like about insurance or government policy (especially FEMA decisions) could mean all of a sudden one day, your property in coastal areas could become very hard to sell.

# Rule 2: Move North.

Mainly for heat, which is expected to be the number one killer of the climate crisis.

But, economic damage from all the climate chaos combined will also be a big factor.

Climate change will magnify existing wealth inequalities: currently poorer areas will be hit hardest; currently wealthy Northern areas may actually gain from climate change, economically speaking.

# Rule 3: Find Fresh Water

# Snowpack

Some places currently use snowpack (snow that accumulates over cold months) as a water source. Warmer winters = less snow, shorter winters = melts earlier.

Every region in the US is affected by a reduction in snowfall.

# Aquifers

Aquifers (underground water layer) make up 29% of all US freshwater currently. Nebraska is among the 10 states that get over half its water from underground.

The Ogallalla Aquifer that Nebraska and much of the Great Plains drink from was 30% depleted by 2010. At this rate, it will be 2/3 empty by 2060.

# Reservoirs

Reservoirs are man-made lakes, created by building a dam in a river. They are critical to the western & southwestern US.

Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir which supplies 25 million people in AZ, CA, and Nevada, is just over 1/3 full.

# Rule 4: Seek Infrastructure

Richer countries have stronger infrastructure. Stable governments, food distribution networks, drinking water sources, medical facilities, emergency systems, communication networks, etc etc etc.

University of Notre Dame has country rankings showing expected vulnerability to climate change by country, relative to one another. (Note- there are US city profiles listed on this site, but a brief browse made them look pretty unreliable. My city, Lincoln, is listed as "no risk" of drought event in 2040 which wouldn't even be true looking at 2024. A friend found their city was listed as unlikely to flood; it's flooded several times already in the last few years they've lived there.)

State level summaries for the US

"Fourth National Climate Assessment" is a Congressional-ordered multiyear effort pair of books to assess climate forecasts. Full report. Other countries may have their own national climate assessments/reports.

# Regional breakdowns:

The Northern middle states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Western New York are likely to be the most climate-proof regions in the US.

# Northern Great Plains

(includes Nebraska). Expect wild swings of temperature, rain, and weather. More droughts and more torrential downpours. Fresh water access likely to be the biggest challenge.

Tornadoes aren't necessarily getting more numerous, but they are getting more powerful.

# Climate sweet spots in the US:

# Pacific Northwest.

Major risks are wildfires, and bug infestations. Other sources of water (aquifers and melting glaciers), so melting snowpack is less of a concern. Wildfire is especially a concern because there didn't used to be wildfires there, so houses and even whole neighborhoods were built right up to the edge of forests (aka, in risky areas) Coastline is very steep, so even Seattle is higher elevation & less at risk due to rising sea levels. Tectonic plates have actually been pushing Washington & Oregon up in recent decades.

# Great Lakes

Northern states that get water from the Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Lots of fresh water, not as hot, far from the coast mostly (excepting parts of New York). Less prone to wildfires than the West coast because cooler & wetter.

# City by city considerations

Many other things to consider listed in this section, beyond just what the overall climate might be like going forward. The end of the chapter has short profiles of many different cities that could make good climate refuge locations if you want to pick up and move.

# General considerations include:

  • Work - how's the job market there?
  • How's housing affordability? (Note that housing is currently expensive basically everywhere that's broadly desirable to live; it is likely that it will keep getting more expensive in those places on our current trajectory, not less.)
  • How's healthcare access? All the ways climate is bad for you, it is largely bad for you health.

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