They Moved to Vermont for Climate Safety: A Tale of Unexpected Floods

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Keywords: Vermont, climate safety, floods, extreme weather, climate change


Vermont, known for its picturesque landscapes and tranquil countryside, has long been considered a safe haven for those seeking refuge from the escalating risks of extreme weather events. Many individuals and families, driven by climate anxiety, have made the decision to relocate to Vermont in search of a more secure environment. However, recent events have shattered the notion of Vermont’s invulnerability to the impacts of climate change. In July, the state experienced devastating floods, causing significant damage to infrastructure, roads, and properties. This article explores the experiences of those who moved to Vermont for climate safety, only to be confronted with unexpected floods and the challenges they now face. Let’s explore They Moved to Vermont for Climate Safety: A Tale of Unexpected Floods.

The Allure of Vermont: A Climate Safe Haven

Vermont, with its low climate risk and relatively insulated position from the harshest impacts of climate change, has attracted individuals and families seeking a safer environment. A 2020 report by ProPublica ranked four Vermont counties among the top 10 in the country that are least likely to suffer from climate change effects such as wildfires, extreme heat, and sea-level rise. Real estate professor Tulane University even referred to Burlington, Vermont, as a “safe haven” for Americans fleeing extreme weather. The state’s strong climate policy and reputation for resilience have made it an appealing destination for climate migrants.

The Wake-Up Call: July’s Devastating Floods

However, Vermont’s supposed climate safety was put to the test in July when the state was hit by massive rains, triggering flash floods, bridge washouts, and road damage. Residents who had moved to Vermont to escape the risks of extreme weather found themselves in the midst of a disaster they had hoped to avoid. The floods were traumatic for many, even those whose homes were spared from water damage. The aftermath of the floods resulted in disrupted commutes, heightened anxiety, and a realization that no place is truly immune from the global trends tied to warming air and ocean temperatures.

Understanding the Global Context: Climate Change and Extreme Weather

The weather events of 2023 have shattered the illusion that certain areas can serve as havens from the impacts of climate change. Extreme conditions, including wildfires, floods, and heatwaves, have become more prevalent worldwide. Climate scientists attribute these events to human-caused warming of the Earth’s air and oceans. While some areas may be relatively more insulated from the harshest risks, no place is entirely isolated from the global trend. It is a sobering reminder that climate change affects every corner of the planet.

Vermont’s Resilience and Climate Migration

Despite the floods and the challenges they pose, many individuals who migrated to Vermont for climate safety still feel safer there than in other parts of the country. They maintain confidence in the state’s government and its commitment to making changes that will address environmental concerns. Vermont’s declining population and efforts to attract climate migrants indicate an awareness of the potential for increased displacement caused by climate-related disasters. While the correlation between the state’s population growth in 2021 and climate migration is uncertain, real estate agents report assisting clients who are seeking refuge from fires and unpredictable weather patterns.

Reconsidering Rebuilding: A Changing Rationale

The floods in Vermont and other extreme weather events across the United States have prompted a shift in mindset among those affected. The traditional approach of rebuilding and restoring to pre-disaster conditions is being questioned at both the federal and individual levels. People are reconsidering the wisdom of rebuilding in areas prone to repeated hazards. Climate anxiety and a growing awareness of the long-term effects of climate change are leading individuals to prioritize factors such as housing, community, job opportunities, and schools when making relocation decisions.

The Emergence of Preemptive Migration

While the concept of “climate migration” typically refers to individuals leaving areas that have become uninhabitable, a new trend is emerging – preemptive migration. Climate is just one of several factors influencing households’ decisions to relocate. Considerations such as housing affordability, job prospects, and community support play significant roles. However, climate change and the desire for a more secure environment have become increasingly influential in people’s decisions to move.

Vermont’s Climate Policy and Resilience

Vermont’s reputation for climate policy and resilience has attracted individuals like Erika Faulkner, who moved to the state in 2020. Ms. Faulkner’s decision was guided by climate change concerns that have been with her since childhood. Vermont’s relatively low pollution levels and absence of wildfire smoke made it an appealing destination. Additionally, the state’s commitment to climate policy meant that Ms. Faulkner could find a job focused on climate resilience – something she struggled to find in her home state of Pennsylvania.

The Reality of Climate Change: No Haven is Perfect

While Vermont’s climate safety may have been shattered by the recent floods, it is important to remember that no haven is entirely impervious to the effects of climate change. Climate scientists emphasize that some areas are more insulated than others, but all places will experience some form of climate impact. The floods in Vermont serve as a reminder that climate change is a global issue that requires collective action. It is not enough to rely solely on relocation; efforts must also be made to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate.


The floods in Vermont have challenged the perception of the state as a climate safe haven. Despite this setback, many individuals who relocated to Vermont for climate safety still believe in the state’s commitment to addressing environmental concerns. The floods serve as a reminder that no place is immune from the impacts of climate change. As extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, it is crucial to prioritize resilience, adaptation, and collective action to build a more sustainable future for all.

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