Story at a glance

  • Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang described his plan to help people adapt to forced relocation due to climate change.
  • Yang advocates government assistance to subsidize people moving to safer locations.
  • He calls for several billions of dollars in funding.

Displacement is a little-discussed effect of climate change, but it’s one that 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has a plan for. Between rising sea levels and rampant wildfires, a landscape that is literally changing forces the people who live in it to follow suit. 

At last night’s Democratic Debate in Los Angeles, the seven candidates on stage were posed the following question from moderator Tim Alberta, per Vox:

Many scientists say that even if the U.S. reduced its carbon footprint to zero by the year 2050, the damage will have been done. Climate change will have made certain places in the U.S. unlivable. Knowing this, would you support a new federal program to subsidize the relocation of American families and businesses away from places like Miami or Paradise, California, perhaps, Davenport, Iowa, because we know these places will be hit time and time again?”


While other candidates punted on this question, Yang laid out a solution, saying, “First we should obviously be focusing on relocating Americans away from places that are hit by climate change. We’ve already done it when we relocated a town from Louisiana that became inhabitable because sea levels rose.”

Yang refers to one of the Louisiana resettlement efforts like the Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, a government program to help residents of the small ridge of land connected to the state by a four-mile road that is barely above sea level. 

Yang outlined his proposal for raising $30 billion in funds to obtain seawalls, water pumps, improved roads and sewer systems for high-risk cities to protect the inhabitants and infrastructure. 

He also aims to generate $40 billion in grants, subsidies and low-interest loans to help climate-sensitive people to relocate to higher ground. 

Further separating himself from other presidential hopefuls, Yang’s plan described immediate action rather than citing tackling institutional and infrastructure problems. 

Yang said that the government “should obviously be paying to relocate Americans away from places that are hit by climate change.” His climate plan is focused on adaptation and calls for federal assistance in helping people do so. 

“The question is, do you leave that town on its own to fend for itself, or do you come together as a country and say we need to protect our people from climate change?”

Published on Dec 20, 2019