The Far-Reaching Effects of Climate Displacement

People are 60 percent more likely to be displaced by a weather-related disaster today than they were in the 1970s.

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idea_bulbA decade after Katrina, thousands of the hurricane’s victims have yet to return to home. In 2005, an estimated 1.5 million people from Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana fled their homes in the face of Katrina. Roughly 40 percent of the people who left, particularly those from Louisiana, were not able to return to their pre-Katrina homes. Only 25 percent of Katrina evacuees relocated within a 10-mile radius of their previous county of residence; another 25 percent relocated more than 450 miles away; and 10 percent relocated to areas at least 830 miles away.

These data for Hurricane Katrina victims exist, in part, because of the large number of people who were forced to flee. The Katrina exodus was the largest U.S. movement of people forced to migrate because of a climate event since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The scope of the Katrina tragedy and the vast and unprecedented need for federal assistance underscored the necessity of identifying where people moved and what services they needed. Extreme weather continues to displace people, but despite the passage of 10 years since Katrina, it is no easier today to determine just how many climate-displaced people there are in the United States or where they are located.

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