Speed Reads

climate change is real and it's happening

The most livable region of North America could shift into Canada by 2070

Even moderate warming from human-caused climate change could make much of the southern U.S. barely habitable and completely change where Americans farm and live.

A report published in May in the National Academy of Sciences' journal examines what's known as the "human climate niche:" Parts of the globe where humans have congregated for the past 6,000 years because of their hospitable temperatures and precipitation rates. But climate change is transforming that inhabitable zone at a rate never seen before, the report found, prompting ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine to transform that data into a series of staggering maps published Tuesday.

As it stands today, and as it has stood for millennia, North America's "human climate niche" consisted of a large bloc in southeastern U.S., from the east coast through northern Texas and Nebraska; as well as most of the west coast. "But as the climate warms, the niche could shift drastically northward," ProPublica and the Times' analysis of the report found. A moderate carbon emissions scenario — what's expected if the world lets emissions peak at mid-century and then ratchets them down with green technologies — would move that zone into the American midwest. And if we allow extreme emissions and warming to continue, the niche zone will move into the northern U.S. and even Canada.

All of this could lead to a huge increase in extreme wildfires, sea level rise, and high heat and humidity; some parts of Arizona may even reach temperatures over 95 degrees for half the year. Find all of ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine's analysis here, and find the whole report here.