Kentucky must be prepared as a climate refugee zone, as climate change will hurt other states.


On Tuesday, the Lexington Fire Department responded to a complaint about smoke in my neighborhood. It was easy to smell. I know the smell of fire in the forest. However, the fire broke out in Oregon, 2,300 miles away. The raging fires in the west and around the world are the direct result of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The smoke from these fires covers the earth like never before. This is a clear measure of the climate crisis we are facing.

Kentucky citizens may feel that we are isolated from the dangers of climate change. Yes, there is smoke from the western fire. But we are having a cool summer. Over the past few years, our night temperatures have risen and our growing season has been extended, but not as extreme as many in the world. We have been hit by heavy rains — long-term heavy rains that lasted at least 13 years. All farmers and gardeners, like my friends who lost their homes in the flood, know this.

Kentucky is still a good place to live. And that’s the problem. Last year I met a couple who were building a house in Jessamine County. They have moved here from Miami Beach. Why? As they explained, they wanted to sell their Florida homes while they were worth more than nickel. I don’t think they are the only ones.

A rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies can and will continue to solve the climate crisis. This is already happening. Solar and wind energies are cheaper than any other energy and provide an economic incentive for this shift. But we are too slow to act. Sea levels will rise and keep people away from the coast — this is already happening. Droughts and fires will keep people away from the west — this has already happened. Millions of people need to relocate.

As my Florida friend shows, Kentucky is a fascinating place for these climate refugees. We need to be consciously prepared for population growth, as these refugees are aware that we have a lot to offer. How do you prepare for thousands of new people?

First, being a shelter only for wealthy whites like Florida friends does not benefit us. We need to welcome all people. They will need work, housing, and support.

Second, our local counties need serious zoning reforms. You need to protect your precious farmland and forests. When I had a farm in Garrard County, I saw unconstrained growth damage in the absence of zoning. Most Kentucky counties have little or no zoning. Lexington has so far succeeded in curbing growth within the boundaries of urban services, but is ready to deal with the influx of large numbers of people without breaking those boundaries and eating up irreplaceable farmland. not.

Kentucky has several important things to offer as part of its climate change solution. Our forests and farms remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in trees and soil. This does not provide a solution, but it does help reduce the effects of fossil fuel burning — we still need to get rid of fossil fuel addiction. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to destroy our natural resources to welcome more people.

State and local decisions are needed to welcome climate refugees without compromising the state’s magnificent beauty. You cannot allow these changes. Otherwise, there will be confusion. We urgently need state and local governments, citizenships, and businesses to recognize imminent problems, perhaps crises. Predicting and planning a crisis is probably not our tradition, but we need to do it.

Please do not make any mistakes. This process has already begun and we need to prioritize refugee relocation before refugees get out of our control.

Dr. Tom Kimerer is a forest scientist and author. He can be contacted on his website,