“We’re not seeing worse heat waves or longer heat waves or more of those long nights that don’t fall below 75 degrees,” Dr. Blumenfeld said. “Instead, what we’re seeing is warmer winters, fewer days during winter where we get to negative 30 Fahrenheit.”
Because the region will remain relatively cool, it will have a lower wildfire risk than the West or the Southeast. Wildfires thrive in hotter temperatures, which dry out plants and make them easier to ignite.
And, because Duluth is inland, it’s mostly protected from the effects of sea level rise.
Duluth, which sits at the western end of Lake Superior, the greatest of the Great Lakes by volume, also has fresh water. A lot of it. Superior is so voluminous that, if poured out, it would submerge North and South America under a foot of water.
“At the end of the day, it’s really about fresh water,” Dr. Keenan said. “It’s that simple. You’ve got to have fresh water.”
You’ve got to have quite a bit, in fact. To meet our minimum needs, from drinking to cooking and cleaning, the World Health Organization says we need 13 to 26 gallons of water a day, or about 50 to 100 liters. The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons.
The city hasn’t formally adopted Dr. Keenan’s climate refuge plan so far, but it has the attention of the mayor, Emily Larson. “This idea that we have this national researcher who has identified Duluth as a place that has kind of a secret sauce when it comes to being a place for refuge and sustainability and resiliency, that is something you want to be a part of,” she said.
For the plan to work, people would need to actually move to Duluth. The city’s infrastructure can accommodate 150,000 people, but the current population is just 86,000. From 2010 to 2016, though, the city added only 56 people.