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.
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.
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?
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?