UN Expert: We Might Have To Migrate People Out Of California If Drought Continues

Dry fields and bare trees at Panoche Road california drought
Dry fields and bare trees at Panoche Road, looking west, on Wednesday February 5, 2014, near San Joaquin, CA. California drought has hit the Central Valley hard. Gregory Urquiaga

A United Nations climate change expert said that if California’s severe drought continues, eventually, the U.S. might have to migrate people out of California, CNBC reports.

More than half of California is currently seeing “exceptional drought” conditions. Wildfires have been ravaging the state. And water is running low. The drought is “the greatest water loss ever seen” in the state, and had already cost the state $US2.2 billion.

“Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought,” said Lynn Wilson, who serves on the U.N.’s climate change delegation, told CNBC. “We may have to migrate people out of California.”

Of course, this is a last-resort option and isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. But Wilson said migration “can’t be taken off the table.”

Some scientists, citing dry periods in California from the past millennium, say the drought could last up to 100 years, but it’s expected to last at least through 2015. There’s some hope that heavy rainfall brought by El niño could help the situation.

Farmers are relying on groundwater, rather than water from reservoirs and rivers, to keep producing their crops, but that will eventually run out, unless this water is replaced. Researchers at the UC Davis Center For Watershed Science say the groundwater depletion is a “slow-moving train wreck.”