Environment

3 Ways Climate Change Will Have Unequal Economic Impacts Across U.S.

Poor people of color will experience the worst of it.

Photo Credit: Charlie Rosenberg/Shutterstock

Reprinted with permission of Colorlines.com. For more news from a racial justice perspective, sign up to receive weekly Colorlines Direct.

A recent study confirms what many have known: Climate change won’t impact all U.S. states equally.

The report's 12 authors, some from the University of Berkeley and Princeton University, published the study in the journal Science, where they investigate the different economic gains and losses states across the United States will see in 2088 to 2099.

The sectors the researchers analyzed, including crime and labor, will see their damage value increase with the global mean temperature. This translates to a 1.2 percent loss in gross domestic product (GDP) per every Celsius degree increase, on average, the study says. Some states will benefit from climate change as their typically brisk temperatures increase while warm states see loss as their climates worsen.

The study relies on economic losses from the past, which could shift with changing technologies. It also does not look at how migration patterns may change in the future as popular locations like Arizona and Texas become less appealing as a result of their climbing temperatures.

County-level median values for average 2080 to 2099 impacts. This map shows median total direct economic damage across all sectors. Courtesy of "Science," Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States.

Here, three main takeaways from the study.

1. The mortality rate will shift

Fewer cold-related deaths will hit the Northern states as they warm. Already-hot Southern states, in contract, will have more deaths. Maps in the analysis show increases of 40 to 80 deaths per 100,000 in the Southeast while deaths in the Northeast will decrease by roughly 20 to 60 per 100,000.

The study determines that if temperatures increase past 2.5 degrees Celsius, the U.S. will experience “excess mortality” from the changes in agricultural production and labor supply—a sector largely made up of Latinx immigrant farmers who are paid some of the lowest wages in the U.S., per United States Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. mortality rate will increase by 0.5 deaths per 100,000, as the decrease in the North and increase in the South should nearly level out.

2. Economic loss will be greatest where many people of color live: the South and Midwest

Northern and Western will see fewer losses—or even benefits, as noted above. The same does not hold true for the Midwest or South.

The South, however, is home to most of the nation’s poorest Black communities. The Midwest is too. It’s also where the majority of poor Native American families live.

In the South, people have already felt what these impacts will look like: $1 billion+ hurricanes from which the federal government won’t help states rebuild. The Midwest doesn’t have hurricanes, but it does experience severe flooding and powerful wildfires.

In the Southwest, home to Latinx border communities, GDP loss will range from 10 to 15 percent. The same goes for Florida.

3. This translates to greater income inequality

The authors told The New York Times that “climate change tends to increase pre-existing inequality.” As noted above, the nation's poorest regions will see some of the worst impacts.

The richest counties will likely feel the least amount of damage as a percentage of their county income. The poorest ones will likely be most damaged, but their data is less definitive, as The New York Times shows.

Check out The New York Times breakdown of the study to visualize these effects in maps and charts here.

 

 

Yessenia Funes is the climate justice reporter for Colorlines. She was previously an editor at YES! Magazine, where she covered racial justice with a solutions lens. Her work has appeared in Grist, AlterNet, Public Radio International, and Truthout. Follow Yessenia on Twitter @yessfun.

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