– As the West burns, the South swelters and the East floods, some Americans are starting to reconsider where they choose to live.

For advice, a few of them are turning to Jesse Keenan, a lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. At least once a day, Keenan, who studies urban development and climate adaptation, gets an e-mail from someone asking where to move to be safe from climate change.

The messages come from people who are thinking about moving not because they have been hit by catastrophe, but because they see the writing on the wall.

So, what does he suggest to these advance planners? Maybe “climate-proof Duluth.”

That’s a slogan he created as part of an economic development and marketing package commissioned by the University of Minnesota Duluth. Some community leaders think they can spur growth by bringing in more people, and they sense an opportunity in climate change.

Keenan emphasized that the Duluth slogan was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. The science behind it, though, is no joke.

Nowhere in the world is immune from climate change, including Duluth. “We’re getting more precipitation in bigger amounts than we ever really observed,” said Kenneth Blumenfeld, a senior climatologist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“But when you stand back and look around, it’s almost like, ‘But we’ve got it good.’ ”

‘Kind of a secret sauce’

Climate projections suggest that, because of geographic factors, the region around Duluth and the Great Lakes will be one of the few places in the U.S. where the effects of climate change may be more easily managed.

First, it’s cool to begin with. That means, as temperatures increase, it will remain mild in relative terms. By 2080, even under relatively high concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions, Duluth’s climate is expected to shift to something like that of Toledo, Ohio, with summer highs maxing out in the mid-80s.

“We’re not seeing worse heat waves or longer heat waves or more of those long nights that don’t fall below 75 degrees,” Blumenfeld said. “Instead, what we’re seeing is warmer winters, fewer days during winter where we get to negative 30 Fahrenheit.”

Because the region will remain relatively cool, it will have a lower wildfire risk than the West or the Southeast. Wildfires thrive in hotter temperatures, which dry out plants and make them easier to ignite.

And, because Duluth is inland, it’s mostly protected from the effects of sea level rise.

Duluth, which sits at the western end of Lake Superior, also has fresh water. A lot of it. Superior is so voluminous that, if poured out, it would submerge North and South America under a foot of water.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about fresh water,” Keenan said. “It’s that simple. You’ve got to have fresh water.”

The city hasn’t formally adopted Keenan’s climate refuge plan, but it has the attention of Mayor Emily Larson.

“This idea that we have this national researcher who has identified Duluth as a place that has kind of a secret sauce when it comes to being a place for refuge and sustainability and resiliency, that is something you want to be a part of,” she said.

Competition from Buffalo

Presented to the public at the end of a two-day conference focused on understanding Duluth’s future in a warming world, Keenan’s research, which partly aims to predict which states are likely to see more people leaving because of climate change, suggested that present-day Texans and Floridians might make excellent future Duluthians.

“What do people from Florida really want?” said Keenan, a former Floridian who still keeps a residence in the state. “They want the infinite horizon of the ocean.”

This may be why one of his sample advertisements — “Duluth, it’s not as cold as you think” — featured an image of a surfer in a wet suit.

That appeared to be tongue-in-cheek, too. When he showed the photo during his presentation, the audience laughed. Duluth does have a surf season. But the proposed ad glides past the fact that it’s in winter.

Not everyone agrees with Keenan’s plan. Because it favors those who are financially able to move, it selects for the affluent and, he acknowledged, raises questions of gentrification.

Ultimately, if Duluth decides to invest in attracting climate migrants, whether voluntary or displaced, the city may face competition.

At least one other Great Lakes city, Buffalo, 700 miles away on the eastern tip of Lake Erie, also has winter cold, and the same geographic blessings as Duluth. Buffalo is predicted to have fresh water even as the climate warms, and its summers will remain relatively cool. “We’ve never had a 100-degree day,” said Stephen J. Vermette, a professor of geography at Buffalo State.

But Buffalo has received what could be described as a wave of climate migrants, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in autumn 2017.

They came partly because Buffalo has an established Puerto Rican population. The city also advertised itself on Puerto Rican television in search of Spanish language teachers.

“About 10,000 people came here after the hurricane in Puerto Rico,” said George Besch, chairman of the board at Designing to Live Sustainably, a nonprofit group working to help the Buffalo-Niagara region adapt to climate change.

According to Mathew Hauer, an assistant professor of sociology at Florida State University, people who migrate, whether by choice or not, still like to stick close to home, moving just far enough to get out of harm’s way but often remaining within the same state or region.

When people do go far away, he said, they move for higher paying jobs, or they “tend to follow kin networks and friend networks.”