Is Climate Change Bad? And Should I Move Because of It?

Image of flooded New Orleans.

Yes, climate change is bad. Maybe you should move, but the answer to whether you should move because of climate change is complicated. 

Why Is Climate Change Bad?

Climate change is caused by the current form of human civilization, specifically the combustion of petroleum products and coal to produce energy that runs modern global society. Combustion of these fuels, known commonly as fossil fuels, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2 is a normal part of the atmosphere that helps the Earth retain heat instead of being frozen in space. This is why it is called a “greenhouse gas.”

However, extra CO2 warms the planet beyond what humanity has been accustomed to for the past several thousand years. Methane (CH4) gas is also a greenhouse gas contributing to atmospheric alterations driving climate change. CH4 emissions come from the gas and oil industry, landfills, and segments of the agriculture industry.

Secondary human activities exacerbate the effects of human-caused climate change due to excessive use of fossil fuels. Deforestation strips the land of trees that absorb CO2 and release oxygen (O2). This lessens the planet’s ability to regulate CO2 in the atmosphere and keep the climatic system stable.

Additionally, deforested land heats up more because it is not shaded and occupied by trees that transpire water into the surrounding air. The heat of the sun bakes into the land. 

Climate change is bad for human society because it disrupts the global ecosystems that sustain us. The results of climate change include:

  • Dangerous heat waves
  • Prolonged droughts 
  • Heavier rainfall causing floods
  • Polar ice cap and alpine glacier melting
  • Rising sea level

These outcomes:

  • Endanger crop yields
  • Deprive people and animals of reliable water supplies
  • Destroy property through flooding and fires
  • Worsen forest fires
  • Increase health dangers such as heat stroke and kidney disease

Why Would I Move Because of Climate Change? 

The loss of water supplies will force people to move because of climate change.

The negative effects of climate change hit various regions of the world in different ways and with different intensities. Climate change may prompt people to move when:

  • Their homes are washed away in a flood.
  • Their homes are burned in a wildfire.
  • They feel threatened by an increased risk of flood or fire.
  • They tire of extreme and prolonged heat waves.
  • They lose their water supply.

This video by Aman Luthra sums up these issues driving climate change migration quite efficiently. 

In this video from NBC LX News cited the United Nations as reporting that 1.7 million Americans moved because of extreme weather in 2020.

For some people, the immediate loss of their home forces them to seek a new place to live. Moving for climate change ceases to be an abstract question and becomes a dire reality. 

Other people may see the writing on the wall so to speak about the location of their home and plan a timely retreat before something awful happens to them. For example, if you live in a coastal community near sea level, the inevitably rising sea cannot be ignored. You would be strongly motivated to move while you still had a chance. Similarly, a community likely to lose access to a water supply is essentially doomed. 

Two Approaches to Moving Because of Climate Change

When environmental factors appear to threaten your current location, you could think about:

  • Adapting to the circumstances OR
  • Moving to an entirely new area where the effects of extreme weather may be more manageable. 

Adaptation could look like:

  • Moving inland from a flooding coast but still living in the same region.
  • Altering your home in some way to make it more resilient against high temperatures or strong winds.

Since no place on Earth will be entirely safe from climate change, many people will choose to adapt to their location whenever possible. Family ties, employment, and cultural forces will make moving far away unappealing. Adaptation strategies such as setting up a backup water supply and leaving flood zones are good starting points to increase your resiliency against unpredictable weather and water restrictions. 

Moving to a new region could look like:

  • Moving north in the Northern Hemisphere or south in the Southern Hemisphere to avoid the worst of the prolonged heat waves
  • Moving to a location with better rainfall and therefore more stable water supply
  • Moving within your own country
  • Moving to a new country

Moving to a different state within the United States or moving to a different country altogether is a big undertaking. You’ll leave your existing network of relatives and contacts behind and start over in a new place. 

This can be emotionally daunting but often leads to personal growth. You might like your new location better and feel more secure about your future. 

After establishing a new home, you might find that some friends and relatives join you in your new location for the same reasons.

Questions to Ask When Thinking About Moving Because of Climate Change

Is my home on high enough ground to survive a flood?

How close do I live to a flood zone?

Do I live in a flood zone already?

Has severe weather already caused me expensive damages?

Have severe weather events become more common where I live?

What is my risk of wildfire?

Is there anywhere near my current location where I would be safer from wildfire threats?

Can I make my property more resistant to wildfire threats?

What is the status of my water supply?

What is the long-term outlook for my water supply?

Am I tired of the extreme weather where I live?

Would I be willing to live in a place that has colder weather?

Can I earn a living in a location where I’d like to move?

Can I afford to stay where I am and adapt to climate change?

The disruption of the planet’s climate system confronts you with many unwanted issues. You will serve yourself best by accepting the reality on the ground where you live and making practical decisions that could improve your future.