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28 million Americans could experience megafires by 2070: analysis

28 million Americans could experience megafires by 2070: analysis
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An analysis published on Tuesday found that approximately 28 million people across the country could face Manhattan-size megafires by 2070, with Northern California residents experiencing them annually. 

The analysis, the second part of a global climate migration series by The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, is based on interviews with four dozen experts, including economists, demographers, climate scientists, insurance executives, architects and urban planners. 

According to the analysis, nearly 1 in 2 Americans “will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water,” in the next 30 years, with changes being the most severe for 93 million people. Additionally, the analysis claims that by 2070, “four million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life.” 

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The study also says that due to rising sea levels and heat waves caused by global warming, many people in Southern and coastal cities have already begun moving north. According to the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, approximately 1 in 12 Americans in the Southern half of the country will move toward California, the Mountain West or the Northwest over the next 45 years because of climate factors. 

Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica's senior environmental reporter, said this mass migration “is likely to increase poverty and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor” and “will accelerate rapid, perhaps chaotic, urbanization of cities ill-equipped for the burden, testing their capacity to provide basic services and amplifying existing inequities.” 

These findings come as the West Coast continues to battle dozens of raging wildfires, with the National Interagency Fire Center reporting on Tuesday that 87 wildfires across the country have burned more than 4.7 million acres.

At least 35 people have died in the fires in California, Oregon and Washington, according to The Associated Press. The Hill reported Tuesday that around 40,000 Oregonians are under evacuation orders due to wildfires that have burned more than 1 million acres statewide.

Air quality tracker IQAir on Tuesday reported that some of the cities most impacted by the wildfires — Portland, Ore., Seattle and Los Angeles — are currently among the top 10 cities worldwide with the worst air quality.