The coast is kind of a favorites place. People love to visit, sit on the beach, and most of all, we really, really love to live there. But as much as humans like living near the ocean, we don’t tend to like living in the ocean.
As the Earth gets warmer, melting ice caps and other forces could cause the average sea level to rise by as much as two meters by the year 2100. And to avoid living underwater, a lot of people might end up needing to move.
Move to where, exactly? Well, new data shows for many people the future is … Texas.
In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, Mathew E. Hauer used demographic data and complex simulations to predict what the United States would be like by the year 2100.
1. Hauer’s prediction? Austin’s going to get even boomier.
The Austin area’s already got a sky-high growth rate, but Hauer predicts it might end up getting an extra 800,000 residents with people moving in from the coasts. That’s like adding an extra 40% of the current population!
A bit further away, the Houston and Dallas areas will end up getting about 318,000 and 265,000 people each.
2. Where would they come from? Some will be Texans, but a lot will probably be from Florida.
The Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Key West, and Tampa areas could lose over 100,000 people each, but Miami might lose a whopping 2.5 million residents as it sinks into the ocean blue. Hauer predicts that about 460,000 Floridians will end up heading toward Orlando, but many will end up moving out of state.
3. Louisianans might also hop on over to the Lone Star State.
500,000 people might end up leaving the greater New Orleans area. Many might move upstate to the Baton Rouge area, which is predicted to gain about 185,000 residents. The state as a whole will probably lose about 460,000 people from sea level rise.
4. All along the East Coast, there’ll be a general push inland.
Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., might get 140,000 and 218,000 new residents, respectively, as Atlantic City loses 124,000.
In North Carolina, Charlotte and Raleigh will gain about 265,000 residents combined as more than 300,000 move away from Norfolk (which is already seeing the effect of sea level rise at military bases).
5. If you think this will just affect coastal states, think again.
Las Vegas, Chicago, and Phoenix could each see more than 100,000 new residents thanks to sea level rise.
6. Finally, if you live in the Bay Area, you might end up needing to find a new plan.
Hauer predicts that sea level rise could force over 250,000 people to leave the San Francisco/Oakland area by the year 2100.
These numbers are a fascinating look into the future — and what we’ll need to do to prepare.
The good news is we still have time to react. The numbers shown reflect the most extreme scenario. Hauer’s numbers would definitely go down if coastal cities implement adaptation strategies, like sea walls or raised roads.
But that leaves the question: Will they? And will the cities that experience growth be able to adapt as well? After all, many places, like Las Vegas or Phoenix, are already running into water management and growth problems of their own.
Of course, these are just predictions. Both human migration and climate change are complicated subjects. But even so, the overall message — that everyone, not just beachgoers, needs to pay attention to climate change — stays the same.
And that maybe we should prepare to spend a lot of time in Texas.