Climate-proof Duluth? Why the city is attracting 'climate migrants'
A stretch of the Lakewalk in Dec. 17, 2020, in Duluth, Minn. The city has been identified as a potential destination for future “climate migrants” — people who leave their homes due to rising sea levels or climate-related extreme weather.


Duluth native Karen Pagel Guerndt remembers when she first heard that her hometown had been singled out as an ideal location for people seeking refuge from the growing consequences of a warming world. It was January. And it was 20 degrees below zero. 

"And so to me, the whole idea of climate migration, it kind of made me laugh," she said. 

If anything, she and other locals mused, Duluth’s climate is going to keep people away. Winters, after all, can be notoriously frigid, long and unforgiving.

Jesse Keenan, an expert on climate adaptation, had recently identified Duluth as a potential hotspot for future “climate migrants” — people escaping rising sea levels or extreme conditions like drought, heat waves and wildfire smoke fueled by climate change. Keenan described the city's climate as moderate, and he noted its access to abundant fresh water and room to grow.

When he traveled to Duluth to pitch his idea for the city to playfully market itself as "Climate-Proof Duluth," the media loved it. The New York Times did a big story; CNN visited. Pagel Guerndt got interviewed as well.

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