The Geography of Climate Change

Tampa, Florida, a city where Donald Trump has held some of his most infamous rallies, will receive disproportionately negative climate change impacts if scientists’ predictions hold true.

In a recent study published in the journal Science, “Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States,” researchers have projected which states will likely be dealing with the most harmful effects of global warming and its associated negative impacts by the end of this century. These negative impacts include coastal flooding, storm damage, agricultural losses, curtailments in job creation and lower values in production of goods and services (GDP).

What makes this study different is that the researchers involved used county-level data to predict localized impacts. As the author’s noted, “Standard approaches to valuing climate damage describe average impacts for large regions (e.g., North America) or the entire globe as a whole. Yet examining county-level impacts reveals major redistributive impacts of climate change on some sectors that are not captured by regional or global averages.”

Indeed, looking at the charts presenting this more localized data in visual form is quite an eye-opening experience. They reveal just how unevenly distributed these negative impacts will be, with states in the South and Midwest bearing the brunt of the most serious economic impacts while states in the country’s Northeast and Northwest may actually receive benefits from atmospheric warming that lead to more vibrant economies.

Based on this map, it certainly looks like some of those jobs that moved to the Sunbelt States over the last 3 decades may be moving back north. It would be very interesting to see Canadian data added here. More jobs on the northern side of the US border ‘eh! Note: Red = economic damage. Dark Green = economic benefits.

What’s quite notable from a political perspective is that the states which are predicted to be the most negatively affected are politically conservative states that have supported Donald Trump and his denials of climate change while he seeks to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and undo all the Obama era rules that sought to prevent global warming and its resulting negative impacts. If one is to believe the data presented in this research, it would appear that Trump’s core supporters (or at least their children and grandchildren) are in for a rude awakening right on their collective front door steps. Unfortunately, they won’t be the only ones to suffer the consequences of doing too little, too late.

This map shows the negative costs to GDP in metropolitan areas across the USA. Florida’s cities appear to take the biggest hit to metro income, but the entire South and Midwest are predicted to be negatively affected.

What I find especially interesting is that the citizens in states like Washington and Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, are some of those working most diligently to combat the effects of global warming even though, as the charts show, they may actually benefit from the losses in other states. Back in 2011, the Seattle City Council set goals to make the city carbon-neutral by 2050. These efforts involve heavy spending on mass transit and making the city an easier place to walk and bike. Washington residents have also appeared willing to tax themselves in order to build new infrastructure to achieve this ambitious goal.

Similar efforts have been unveiled in other US cities such as Portland, Oregon, Chicago and San Francisco, all places located outside the areas most likely to be negatively affected by global warming’s effects. Note the placement of Seattle and Portland on the list below. Both cities actually stand to register economic gains from the planet’s warming, yet their citizens are willing to help pay their fair share to prevent these effects from taking place. What about citizens in other regions who are still far behind the learning curve?

As Table 1 shows, the greatest negative economic impacts to metro GDP will be seen in cities in Florida, Texas and Arizona. Miami already has infrastructure projects well underway to try to hold back the rising sea levels that have been flooding its coastal areas. Where is the political will in other, more conservative, areas of the Florida to demand that their political leaders take the threats of climate change seriously? Trump may need to start building a sea wall around Mar-a-Lago soon!

Trump dismisses the reports of his own government scientists!

Some will continue to call such studies ‘fake news’ and say that the author’s have a political agenda. What they ignore is that President Trump’s tweets and face-to-face denouncements of global warming are at odds with his own climate scientists. According to the EPA’s official government website, “Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.”

Based on research reports presented to the U.S. Congress by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), temperatures in the very ‘red’ state of Texas “could climb by more than 8 degrees by the end of this century, with an additional 30 to 60 days of 100-degree-plus temperatures and extreme heat that could result in hundreds of more heat-related deaths and greater risks to outdoor agricultural workers.” Projections of negative impacts are similar in other areas of the southern and southeastern USA with Florida’s cities being especially hard hit. Looking at the charts presented here should frighten residents of areas across these regions.

So much for denying that global warming is fake news. Wouldn’t it be amazing, if for once, we could all come together–from both left, right and center–to work together to formulate policies that would mitigate such negative future scenarios? Hiding our heads in the sand and pretending there isn’t a problem simply means that we are losing precious time as carbon continues to collect in the atmosphere and temperatures continue to slowly rise.

Unfortunately, everyone living in the negatively impacted areas will be affected regardless of their political affiliation, but as has been the case in natural disasters in the past (think Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 effects on the economically disadvantaged living in New Orleans), the poor are disproportionately affected. Still, at the same time, it’s the federal government which must pay for recovery efforts through tax-payer dollars. So, in the end everyone pays, or at least those who actually pay taxes.

Unfortunately, a warming planet and the resulting climate changes are not a reality TV show, so we can’t just change the channel and make it all go away. What will it take for Trump’s core supporters and their ilk in congress to redirect their fear and anger from the border wall melodrama to the very real global emergency of climate change?



Estimating Economic Damage from Climate Change in the United States

How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing



Categories: Environment, PoliticsTags: , , , , ,


  1. Thanks for taking time to research this! I’ve been wondering about this very thing, specifically how it pertains to the Pacific Northwest. I really hope that we humans can grab a hold of this problem before it completely gets away from us. Our life, or if not ours then the lives of our grandchildren hang in the balance.

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  2. Thanks for your research. The images help a lot to explain the extent of the damage. The flooding will be intense in many areas. -Rebecca

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  3. Thanks for the information, Henry.
    “Hiding our heads in the sand and pretending there isn’t a problem simply means that we are losing precious time as carbon continues to collect in the atmosphere and temperatures continue to slowly rise.” I much agree.
    Trump’s perfect consistency in affirming the consequent places William Happer to lead his advisory panel on climate change:
    The geography of global warming is as dramatic as it is irrefutable. The Pacific Northwest is a beacon of good news, but it’s up against an extremely inconveniently likely seismic event in plate tectonics. Cruelly enough, it’s right up there with the San Andreas fault. Here is a link to the Cascadian threat:
    I don’t think the world is going to end with a whimper. Actually, the planet itself still has some billions of years before crisping out from an expanding sun. A different matter for present occupants though. Heads in the sand never bode well, dang it all to heck.

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    • Hi Bill. Thanks for reading and sharing the links. I lived in Seattle for the last 16 years I was in the States and the earthquake hazards there are quite well known and still being thoroughly researched. There are fault lines running right under the city center which would most likely be triggered by a major subduction quake off the coast which is due at any time according to the geologic frequency of such events. I worry for all my dear friends who still live there, but as you say, the world is filled with risks of various sorts these days and life must do on.



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    • The map indicates county divisions so you can compare it with a regular NC map that shows county boundaries to get a better idea of the specific counties shown in green. It looks as if it includes Ashe and Watauga Counties in the far north and several others to the south along the NC/Tenn border, probably to the higher altitude Black Mountains which contain the State’s highest peak, Mt. Mitchell. There’s also one or more counties shown in green to the west and south of Buncombe County (Haywood and Transylvania?). Without researching this, I assume these counties shown in green are most likely higher elevation counties where the climate would be positively affected by warming temps, especially in areas that currently have harsh, cold winter weather. Most mountain ranges also contain multiple micro-climate zones often found within a small geographic area. Hope this helps.


  5. Hi Henri
    Thanks for sharing this great research. It surely makes a significant difference!
    I think the pollution of the environment also causes spiritual consequences of high impact that we often forget. Animals and plants are conscious too. We exchange, for example, CO2 for O2 with them. There are many more energetic communications happening between everybody and everything. The more foreign particles get into the natural way, the more the energy flows get disturbed, deviated, and slowed down. Such disturbances of the collective consciousness of life might influence much more of behavior, well-being, and further development than “scientifically” already measured and predicted.
    All the best!

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    • I’m very sensitive to the energy of places and agree with you Mathias. That’s yet another malady to add to the very long (and growing) list of negative consequences of climate change. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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