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As NC Temps Rise, Climate Migrants Expected to Increase

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Experts say food shortages, housing insecurity and other hardships many North Carolinians are experiencing from the pandemic could become commonplace as climate change drives more extreme weather events.

According to the state's Climate Science Report, the past decade represents the warmest 10-year period on record, and recent data show 2019 was the warmest year to date for North Carolina.

Steffi Rausch, lead organizer for the Asheville Citizens' Climate Lobby, said warmer temperatures are already driving displacement.

She reported farmworkers and other seasonal workers are leaving other coastal regions and traveling to North Carolina in search of work.

"So we're finding that people from Florida are definitely moving here more because of the events that they are experiencing down in Florida with sea-level rise and flooding," Rausch observed.

Rausch added seniors, low-income people and other vulnerable populations are the first wave of climate migrants in the U.S. She noted of the five coastal areas most frequently hit by hurricanes between 1960 and 2008, three were North Carolina counties.

A 2019 report by NOAA found North Carolina cities such as Wilmington could expect two- to threefold increases in tidal flooding in the near future.

Rausch also predicted as sea level and extreme weather risks rise, coastal residents will face heftier down payments and inequities in insurance, which could increase household debt.

"And then there's Farmers Insurance, which has stopped writing NC homeowners' policies in 2008," Rausch remarked. "So, the insurance companies are seeing the writing on the wall."

Ericka Pino, chief meteorologist at Univision, said global climate-driven migration is happening in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, countries which have struggled with drought since 2014.

"People are moving around because they are losing their homes," Pino explained. "Where they're coming from specifically, it doesn't just have to be Central America. There are other places that are being affected by extreme typhoons and earthquakes and all sorts of stuff."

She contended building border walls and withdrawing from international treaties aren't going to solve the inevitable climate crisis.

In his first few days in office, President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline and ordered a federal review to jumpstart the process of reinstating environmental regulations rolled back by the Trump administration.


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