Leaving the NEST: A final report to NOAA on climate migration

Fence in flooded fieldBy Sarah Delmonte

Last month, the Northeast Safe & Thriving For All (NEST) project team released their final report to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Climate Program Office presenting their findings on climate migration. The NEST project is composed of researchers, experts and practitioners in the Upper Northeast with an interest in the potential for and effects of climate migration specific to these regions. The Upper Northeast is defined by NEST as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, western Massachusetts, and upstate New York, which are areas perceived as “climate havens”.

The work conducted by NEST addresses planning for climate change beyond the building of infrastructure and research of risks, taking into account human factors such as how backgrounds affect culture and identity of a region, socioeconomic status and its influence, and past migration history in communities. NEST researchers conducted team workshops, listening sessions, and presentations region-wide while looking at previous migration trends and case studies in the Northeast. The workshops focused on building communication between team members and expanding on perspectives to incorporate both study and practice.

In May 2023, the NEST team organized a bi-annual Local Solutions Conference at Antioch University New England where they presented the results and findings of their work. According to the report, environmental risks and disasters are one of many reasons for movement. Despite the Northeast being rated with high resiliency and low disaster damage, people still move to hazard-prone areas of the United States. Projections of a possible point in the future where climate impacts will change this remain uncertain due to limitations and difficulties of modeling. Additionally, NEST found based on past migration patterns that housing conditions, environmental quality, and social and economic shifts can create major demographic changes in the Northeast. NEST researchers and stakeholders stressed addressing housing supply, quality, and affordability when regarding the possible change of demographics in the future.

Among the team of researchers in the NEST Program were Dr. David Hart, director of the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions and Dr. Vanessa Levesque, assistant professor in the department of environmental science and policy at the University of Southern Maine. Levesque recently delivered a talk at the Mitchell Center about climate migration, where she detailed the climate migration phenomenon and provided more information regarding the research of the NEST team. The talk is available on YouTube.


Sarah Delmonte is a Communications Intern with the Mitchell Center. Sarah is a senior undergraduate student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism.