Climate change could make Mpls the new NYC, says The Economist [VIDEO]

Minneapolis skyline and, right, New York City preparing the subway for Hurricane Sandy.
Minneapolis skyline and, right, New York City preparing the subway for Hurricane Sandy.
adamsfelt and MTAPhotos via Flickr

If we survive tomorrow's Mayan apocalypse, we may have to start contending with a more insidious doom: rising oceans. But one way to offset at least the financial punch of climate change, says The Economist's economic correspondent, Ryan Avent, is for people to start migrating. Specifically, migrating to places like Minneapolis.

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Avent lays out his Minneapolis theory in an on-camera conversation, released this morning, with the magazine's globalisation editor, John Parker, and briefings editor, Oliver Morton, following the U.N.'s climate conference in Doha, Qatar. The scene looks like what you might expect from an Economist video: British accents, lots of books behind Avent.

Before he gets to the possible benefits of mass migration, Avent offers some caveats. Chiefly, any moves will only be possible "so long as we don't hit really high temperature increases that might make agriculture completely unproductive and lead to the end of life on earth."

Details like those aside, Avent says, "I think what we would expect to see is that locations like lower Manhattan become less attractive over 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and locations on higher ground or further north would be more attractive."

High and dry means, he continues, "for instance, a city like Minneapolis, which is going to be warmer in the winters and... less vulnerable to coastal flooding."

"If it's possible to relatively smoothly relocate people and activity as the planet warms," Avent says, "a lot of the costs of rising sea levels, droughts, and shifting into different places where crops grow well could be substantially reduced." (Minnesota farmers still did notably well this drought-stricken season).

Avent lists some factors that will influence whether or not Minneapolis becomes the new New York. The first is if governments allow and facilitate it. The second, "the odds we get catastrophic events that occur too quickly for people to adjust" (that fun end-of-the-world, Lady Liberty floating off into the Atlantic scene again). The third, the extent to which Manhattan perseveres, and does things like plot density on higher ground and re-route subways instead of just building flood walls.

The key metric, though, will be time. If Minneapolis is going to be the city of the future, it will require a gradual process of building up infrastructure and preparing for the influx of displaced coast-dwellers. "If people start moving to Minneapolis," Avent asks, "is Minneapolis going to have the resources to build more roads, more electrical and plumbing infrastructure, more railways if that's what's necessary, more airports?"

As Morton explains before the end of the video, climate change will produce adaptations and impacts. For residents of warmer regions, migration will be an adaptation. But as those people stream north, Minnesotans might start feeling migration as an impact.

Here's the full video of the conversation:

Related, from our sister paper, the Village Voice: Hurricane Sandy Is New York's Katrina: Floods, fear, and FEMA failures [Cover]

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