Climate change is a global problem with extremely local impacts. A major new study illuminates how the effects of climate change will reverberate economically across the United States. Its findings are both a warning of challenges to come and an opportunity to recalibrate how resources are allocated to protect Americans from global warming’s negative repercussions.
Published in the journal Science, the study found that unmitigated climate change will make the United States “poorer and more unequal,” with the poorest third of counties across the country potentially sustaining economic damages costing as much as 20% of their income. Furthermore, if emissions are not slowed and the planet warms 6-10°F (3-5°C) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, costs will approach those of the Great Recession—“except they will not go away afterward and damages for poor regions will be many times larger.”
The team of economists and climate scientists looked at how six categories—agriculture, crime, health (mortality), energy demand, labor, and coastal communities—will be impacted by higher temperatures, changing rainfall, rising seas, and intensifying hurricanes.
They found that states that are already hotter, and already poorer on average, will lose the most. These states tend to be located in the South and lower Midwest. Meanwhile, states to the north and west will see increased economic opportunity, with “colder and richer” countries across the northern border and in the Rockies standing to benefit the most as health, agriculture, and energy costs are likely to improve.