As you sit here reading this, Hurricane Harvey is inundating Texas.
This is pretty ironic–and poignant–considering a new study published in Science magazine titled “Estimating Economic Damage from Climate Change in the United States” finds the Southeastern states, the ones that voted overwhelming for President Donald Trump, are the most vulnerable to the expensive impacts of anthropogenic climate change.
The study discusses how climate change will not impact all areas evenly. In fact, Southern states will be affected the most.
Experts with vast expertise in climate change conducted the study, using economic figures, empirical data, and risk modeling. They employed large-scale climate models to predict future climate with historical observations. They then calculated the outcome probabilities of various climate models, and based economic impacts on input gleaned from the most recent, highest quality scientific literature.
Among the outcomes researchers found were large decreases in the Southeast crop yields, considerable increases in Northern states; temperature-related labor reduction; almost universal crime rate increases; increases in energy costs in the South and Southeast, decreases in the Northwest; and nationwide coastal damage.
Robert Kopp, one of the study’s authors, stated in a press release:
“In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities. Increasingly extreme heat will drive up violent crime, slow down workers, amp up air conditioning costs, and threaten people’s lives.”
Take note of what Kopp said: “The Gulf Coast will take a massive hit.”
It is the Gulf Coast presently getting slammed.
Lead author, Solomon Hsiang, concurs:
“Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States. If we continue on the current path, our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history.”
Both calculate temperatures by the end of this century will lead to costs tantamount to a permanent version of the 2008 Great Recession.
However, should we decide to act to address our climate exigencies, there is hope.
“By identifying and quantifying the impacts, we can begin to create a social system and even biosystems that are more resilient. Thinking about creation of infrastructure that can withstand flooding along rivers and coasts, developing agricultural methods that are more resilient to heat and droughts, investing in technologies that reduce thermal stresses on humans and animals, reforesting both urban and rural regions to lower local temperatures, etc.”
Hopefully we won’t have to endure frequent repeats of Hurricane Harvey, let alone Hurricanes Sandy and Irene from years ago, to finally get serious about mitigating climate change’s permanent impact on all our lives.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt (which is also rising).
Image credit: Hsiang et al. (2017), Science