You may know David Pogue as the affable gadget guru on “CBS Sunday Morning” who shows up around Christmas in a Santa suit, giving tips on digital gifts — in verse. But for the past two years, the clever tech writer has been researching the range of threats posed by climate breakdown.
The result is his 600-page-plus comprehensive guide: “ How to Prepare for Climate Change: A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos .” Oh yes, there will be chaos; much of it has actually already begun.
Pogue’s book is wide-ranging, taking on topics from how to prepare for floods and wildfires to where to invest to help the environment and your retirement security. I met with him recently (via Zoom /zigman2/quotes/211319643/composite ZM -0.73% ) asking Pogue to share some of his advice and insights. Here are the highlights, edited for space and clarity:
Next Avenue: We should make it clear at the outset that your book is a ‘survival guide,’ not a guide to shrinking your carbon footprint , right?
David Pogue: The climate has changed, past tense . This stuff we’re seeing with the hurricanes and the wildfires — that’s not an anomaly. That’s what we’ve got from now on. So, trying to pretend that we can stave off any of it is folly.
I think these days, the advice is: We have to do both as hard and fast as possible. And that’s my message through the whole book: You gotta mitigate — you gotta stop pumping carbon into the air and we also need to adapt, because we’re foolish to think it’s going to be back to 1980s weather within our lifetimes.
And it even affects what grows in our backyards. So, you have some strategies for that.
Gardening, it turns out, is the No. 1 most popular hobby in America — a shock to me. So yeah, there’s a chapter called “What to Grow,” and there are two aspects to it.
One is the “survival garden,” how you can grow your own stuff — beans, and things you can put away for the winter and eat as necessary.
And if you are a gardener, how to make things grow in a time where the traditional techniques and timings don’t work anymore.
We’re already seeing climate refugees around the world; people fleeing climate impacts of various kinds. Do you see a major migration of middle-class Americans unfolding for the same reason?
All the indications show that, especially in the southern states, especially Florida, Texas and Louisiana, the movement of people because of climate factors has begun. I know several people personally who’ve moved out of California. They’ve said they’re just done living with wildfires.
And increasingly people are considering climate as a factor among others when they decide to move. Not that many people say, ‘I’ve had it with these hurricanes, I’m moving to Vermont,’ but there’s a number of people who are saying, ‘I’ve had it with the weather and the cost of living is so much lower in the Great Lakes area.’
Do you think anyplace is truly ‘climate-safe?’
So, what would be your best bets? You’re not the first to mention the Great Lakes.
In the book, I looked at 15 ‘climate haven’ cities in the sense that they have no wildfires, no hurricanes and unlimited, clean, fresh water. And they tend to be in the Great Lakes area: Madison [Wis.], Cleveland, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Buffalo, Duluth [Minn.].
But there’s no place that’s completely free. I mean even Madison, which is — I think when I become an empty-nester, that place is calling my name — even they have occasional floods. They have mosquitoes. I’d say these are minor compared to what people on the coasts of the U.S. are experiencing, though.
Check out: Where should I retire?
I notice your ‘havens’ tend to be pretty cold places.
It turns out the two classic American retirement havens, Florida and Arizona, are the worst places for you to retire, yeah. These are the places that are most immediately in danger.
I mean, Arizona — Phoenix is uninhabitable in the summer. People keep oven mitts in their glove compartment because the steering wheel is too hot to touch. In Flagstaff, which is nearby, but much cooler because it’s at elevation, they joke about putting up a wall to keep out all the Phoenix people moving there.
It’s time to really reconsider what we consider our climate refuge as we retire.
It often seems to me that these lists of things you can do apply mostly to middle-class homeowners. If you’re a renter in a low-income neighborhood, what can you really do to protect yourself?
This was constantly on my mind. Climate change hits people of color and low-income communities hardest. Study after study shows that for a lot of awful historical, shameful reasons, communities of color tend to be in low-lying areas, to have housing that’s built more flimsily and so on.
When people say, ‘So what are the top things you can do?,’ one of them is install the free emergency app from the American Red Cross . It should be on every phone. You put in your address and maybe your parents’ address or your kids’ address, and then if there’s ever any kind of disaster coming your way — hurricane, fire, flood, windstorm, tornado, even a nuclear meltdown or chemical spill, this thing springs to life and warns you.
It tells you where the Red Cross shelters are closest to you. It has built-in emergency and first aid instructions that don’t need an internet connection in case the cell towers go down. It can save your life.
The other big one is insurance. Almost everyone of any income level has to have some kind of [homeowner’s or renters] insurance and most of us haven’t looked at our policies since we got them.