Answers With Joe

The Best Places To Live To Survive Climate Change

We hear a lot about ways to mitigate climate change, but as the effects start to pile up, we should probably talk about ways to prepare for the worst. So let’s look at the best places around the world to live to survive climate change.


They say Texas is a state of extremes. And this summer has definitely lived up to that.

They say Texas is a state of extremes. And this summer has definitely lived up to that.
After two straight months of triple digit temperatures and almost no rain whatsoever, a storm blew through on the 22nd that caused widespread flooding here in Dallas.
How bad was it? Well according to Pete Delkus, the local weather guy around here, overnight it went from one of the driest Augusts on record to the 6th wettest.
Yeah. One storm.

Now, no one weather event is climate change, but climate change models predict more extreme weather events like this. And the extreme heat and drought that came before.
I talked earlier in the year about the problems with the Colorado River and not to pat myself on the back or anything but yeah… Everybody’s talking about that now.
There’s also the Great Salt Lake, which is 1/3rd the size it used to be and leaving behind dry lake beds filled with arsenic that could get blown around the city and cause health problems for hundreds of thousands of people.
The things is, we know this, we know that some places are going to be hit harder by climate change than others. We hear about that all the time. But what about the other places?

What are the places that could actually benefit from climate change?
Whenever you do a video on climate change, you will inevitably get that guy in the comments that points out that yes, climate change is a thing, because the climate it always changing, it always has changed, since long before humans got here, therefore it has nothing to do with us.
It does.

But let’s set that debate aside for the purposes of this video and focus on what we agree on…

1. The climate is always changing, it’s actually fluctuated quite wildly over geologic time.

2. The current change the climate is going through is it’s getting warmer. Kinda distressingly fast.

The best option we have for mitigating this is to change the  composition of our atmosphere to what it was 150 years ago or so. Hence the effort to get carbon dioxide levels down to where it was back then.
But even if we manage to cut all carbon emissions tomorrow, it would take decades, maybe centuries for things to stabilize, much less go back to where it was.
So while we do need to be doing all the things to mitigate it, we also need to accept that change is coming. And we are going to need to adapt.
It’s nothing new, throughout human history there have been farms that became deserts, land that became oceans – whole cities and civilizations have splintered, moved, or disappeared completely because the conditions that made it possible in the first place just… changed.
Different parts of the world have become more and less habitable as the global temperature has ebbed and flowed over the last 10,000 years of human history. Ten thousand years, by the way, that were actually remarkably stable in the big picture.
So as climate and ecosystems change, some areas will become more difficult to live in. But others will actually be easier to live in.

Ideal Conditions

There does seem to be a temperature range where humans thrive the most. Researchers call it the Human Climate Niche. And it’s fairly narrow.
At least according to a research study by ProPublica, most people have historically lived in places with a Mean Annual Temperature of 11 to 15 degrees Celsius, about 52 to 59 Fahrenheit.
And it turns out here in North America, historically anyway, we’ve been in that Human Niche.
For several thousand years, temperature and rainfall created desirable areas in a band from the Midwest to the Atlantic coast.  Some scattered regions, like the coast of California, are also ideal.

Climate Change Effects

But these ideal regions are changing. Over the next fifty years, the American Southeast is expected to continue getting warmer and drier. And this band of ideal conditions will shift north, nearly to Canada in some places.
And this is being optimistic. More drastic scenarios could see everything south of Colorado become uninhabitable.

Heat and Humidity

Southern states like Louisiana are famous for their humid heat.  In the future, Louisiana will be a steam bath, while states further up the Mississippi like Missouri and Kentucky could look a lot more like Louisiana today.
Ironically, changes in cloud cover could cause humidity to go up in the desert southwest, which will only add to the stifling heat there.
I mean, 110 degrees is one thing, but 110 degrees with 90% humidity? That’s a whole different thing.


But some places that could use that humidity is California and Oregon, where wildfires are expected to increase. Or I should say, continue to increase.

Sea-level Rise

On the east coast, sea-level rise will drive millions of people from their homes.  Don’t get me wrong, it’ll affect the Pacific coast too, but it’s not as densely populated.
Two-percent of New York County is expected to fall below the tide line.  That may not sound like a lot, but 8.4 million people live there.
It’s thought that 2 to 5% of property in Florida will be taken by the ocean and the various storms it produces. That equates to about  fifteen million people.
By the way, rising water levels are already having an effect in Florida.
Back in March Fox Weather did an article – yes, THAT Fox Weather –  about how popular spring break spots like Miami are already feeling the pain. 

Local businesses are seeing increased flooding, with water backing out of storm drains and going over sea walls.  Septic tanks have started flooding, sending their contents into the streets.
Obviously that’s not the Spring Break experience most people are looking for. [END TANGENT]
Now that may not be the most heartbreaking thing in the world, some frat bro’s gonna have to find a new place to shoot their Natty Lights, big deal. It’s not like our food is at stake.
Except our food is totally at stake.

Reduced Crop Yields

Experts predict crop yields will fall across most of the US, but especially in the South, from the East Coast to West Texas.
Some California crop yields will decline by 20 percent.  Avocados are expected to fall by 40 percent.
Reduced crop yields will increase the cost of meat. In Texas, 96% of our corn crop goes to livestock.  Imagine the price of beef when Texas farmers are growing 70% less corn.

Combined Effects

And it’s not like Texas, or anywhere else, will have to deal with one climate-related crisis at once.  Most areas are going to be hit with several, and these things are going to compound to make life miserable in a lot of states.
But not all.

Refuges: The Great Lakes States

As this Human Climate Niche shifts upward, the Great Lake States are likely to see a population boon.
As temperatures warm and winters become less severe, crop yields are expected to remain steady and the ample fresh water in the Great Lakes means they won’t be as vulnerable to droughts.
And their inland location means no sea level rise or hurricanes.
Rust-belt cities may see a return to peak populations.  Buffalo, New York hopes to reap the whirlwind.  The mayor declaring declared Buffalo a climate refuge awhile back.
Since then, the city has been working through a list of initiatives to make it resilient to climate change.

Refuges: Pro-active Cities

It’s one of a growing list of cities that are looking ahead with these effects in mind and making plans.
Boston, for example, is building roads, walkways, and seawalls to hold off an expected 1% sea-level rise.
New York City has been building a “flood protection system” since 2020, inspired by Hurricane Sandy.
Phoenix, Arizona is trying to combat heat by planting trees.  Phoenix is also looking to provide more shelter for homeless people, who are at the greatest risk of dying from heat.

 Lovable Underdogs

And credit where it’s due, the US government is still trying to keep New Orleans from washing away.

80% of the city was swamped by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  The Army Corps of Engineers has been shoring up the levees ever since.
Unfortunately, those levees are sinking.  They’ll be mostly useless in about four years.  A new plan is underway to divert sediment from the Mississippi into nearby wetlands.

The plan will cost 1.5 billion dollars. But get this: some of the money is coming from BP, the company behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  BP’s money could buy New Orleans time.
But it won’t make it cooler.  In twenty or thirty years, the folks who live in New Orleans, or Phoenix, or Dallas, will have to learn to love heat, or leave it.  Some will definitely stay.
To be honest, that’s a discussion that we’ve been having around here lately. I mean, this summer was rough. And I’m really starting to question if I want to live the rest of my life in a place where you can’t really go outside for 3 months out of the year.

For all of these reasons, it’s thought that the US is going to have a population shift over the next several decades from the South to the North.
Now I make that sound like the South is going to empty out and everyone’s going to move up north, of course that’s not what’s going to happen. Some cities will shrink a little but probably it’s more like as the population grows, it’s going to grow faster in northern areas than southern ones.
Yeah, I actually don’t think we’re going to lose any whole cities, there are always going to be stalwarts who will stick around no matter what.

Hell there are still 5 people living in Centralia Pennsylvania, and it’s being swallowed up by an underground coal fire that’s been burning for 60 years. I did a whole video about it a while back.

Refuges: Other Alternatives

But if you’re not so ride-or-die for your hometown, you might consider a move to the Great Lakes in the coming years.
The ProPublica report also suggest areas in the Northeast like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and cities like Boston or Pittsburgh.
Other areas like Wyoming and Colorado look promising – their higher elevation means they’ll more temperate. Same for West Virginia.

The International Situation

Climate change is a global problem, pretty much every country is gonna get whacked by the climate stick.
So to find this answer, I’m using a report from a group called the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), they release a report every year since 2005 that lists countries by their climate protection.
This year’s report ranks Denmark, Sweden, and Norway near the top.

The list also puts India in the top ten.  But India is already the exception to the temperature rule.  Its Mean Annual Temperature is 26 degrees Celsius, nearly 80 Fahrenheit.

Refuges: The Scandinavian Countries

But in general, more northern countries will be the best bets, that’s why Scandinavian countries are close to the top – Finland and Iceland rated well too.
Iceland is an interesting example actually, because it’s already changed quite a bit due to melting glaciers.

Warmer seas have disrupted their fishing industry. But… crop yields are going up.
In fact, barley was abandoned a long time ago on Iceland but in the last couple decades it’s made a comeback and has actually become a valuable crop for farmers there.

Refuges: NZ, UK, AU, IR

But let’s say the fit really hits the shan and massive waves of climate refugees cause societies to collapse. Then you might want to find a lifeboat country. A lifeboat country, according to this report, is a country with good climate protection plans but are also geographically isolated and somewhat self-sustaining.
Good examples of this are New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland.
Ireland has a 125-billion Euro plan to combat climate change.  More importantly, only 2 percent of the Irish economy depends on agriculture, which makes the country less vulnerable than its peers.

Then you’ve got Australia on the other side of things, they’ve so far not done much to mitigate climate change, but geographically they’re in a good place.
I should note that plenty of countries in Africa and South America have done amazing things in their climate efforts. Just their locations kept them off the top of this list.

Developing Countries

Which kinda brings me around to the most important point. Some places are just going to suffer more than others. And most of those are the poorer parts of the world.
Like this whole time I’ve been saying “maybe you should move here” or “This place might be better” but that’s just not an option for a lot of people.
Moving is not cheap. The ability to do it is kind-of a privilege.
And just to pile on to the point, these are the people who have contributed the least to the problem, but they’re going to suffer the most.
But then there are weird knock on effects that could be both a blessing and a curse. Like Greenland.

A Greener Greenland?

I considered putting Greenland on the list of refuge countries. Because as its ice melts, more farmland is going to open up. Meaning someday Greenland might actually be green.
Right now only 2 of every 10,000 acres of land on Greenland is good for farming.

Obviously this sounds like a good thing, more green… land would be better. And it is in terms of having new land to put cash crops on… but it also puts a target on their back.
Right now, Greenland is one of the most contested pieces of real estate on the planet.  It’s coveted by China, Russia, and the US, among others.
Aside from valuable cropland, there’s also thought to be a wealth of rare earth metals under the ice.
And natives are already fighting to protect their land.  A law was passed in 2021 to block uranium mining near the port of Narsaq.

Time to Invest

But it’s safe to say that investors are smelling the chum in the water. Not just because of new lands that are opening up but as sea ice thaws in the arctic, new shipping lanes are opening up as well.
There are already predictions that port cities in Greenland and Northern Canada that are barely more than villages right now are going to explode in the coming decades, both in population and importance.

Now before I get accused of putting too much of a positive spin on this, I just want to reiterate, none of this is good. None of it.
Humans have spent the last 10 to 20,000 years settling in a nice little goldilocks zone here on Earth. And as things warm up and that zone moves away from the equator, we are likely to see mass migrations of people at a scale never before imaginable.
If you have the ability to, say, just pack up and buy a house in the Great Lakes region, you are one of the lucky ones. If you already have a home in the Great Lakes region, (pop in, menacing)

Gimme it. Gimme it now.
But don’t forget there are billions of people around the world who could be displaced in the coming decades.
If we’re lucky, this will happen slowly and gradually enough that it’ll feel natural. But I fear that if we’re going to talk about adapting to the effects of climate change, one of those effects will be massive social unrest.
But if I may try to end this on something resembling a positive note, massive social unrest often leads to positive social changes in the long run. Because something was out of balance that caused the unrest in the first place.
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. So, if you have the means to do so, the time to prepare is now.

I’m curious to hear what you guys think, would you be willing to move to avoid climate change problems? Is there anything specific that would make you decide it’s time to do that? Share your opinion with the thousands of trolls and bots down below.


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