As temperatures rise in the coming decades, no part of the United States will pay a bigger price than the South.
That’s according to a study published in the June 30 edition of the journal Science that forecasts the economic damage of climate change on a county-by-county basis. Overall, researchers found, the parts of the country that are already the hottest and have the greatest economic disparities will likely suffer the most.
“In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit,” Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and one of the study’s co-authors, said in a release.
The Gulf Coast’s “exposure to sea-level rise ― made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes ― poses a major risk to its communities,” Kopp said. “Increasingly extreme heat will drive up violent crime, slow down workers, amp up air conditioning costs, and threaten people’s lives.”
As a result, economic opportunities would shift northward and westward from the South and the Midwest, stimulating economies along the Rocky Mountains and in the northern border states:
But while those historically cooler regions would benefit from things like higher agricultural yields and lower energy costs, the overall American economy is expected to suffer.
For each 1 degree Fahrenheit that temperatures rise, the team of economists and climate scientists say, we should expect the U.S. gross domestic product to drop by about 0.7 percent.
“Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States,” said lead researcher Solomon Hsiang, an economist and public policy expert at the University of California, Berkeley. “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.”
The first-of-its-kind study accounted for the economic impact of 15 different climate change-sensitive variables in each county, then used 29,000 simulations to predict their effects on local income as temperatures rise.
“This is the most comprehensive, the most detailed information to date,” University of Illinois finance Professor Donald Fullerton, who wasn’t part of the study, told The Associated Press. “Nobody had ever done anything like this.”
In terms of income loss as a result of climate change, Florida stands to suffer more than any other state, the study found. (Of the 10 U.S. counties projected to lose the most income due to rising temperatures, seven are in Florida.) On the flip side, the state of Michigan is likely to see the greatest income gains.
You can view a more detailed, interactive map of the findings at the Climate Impact Lab.
Generally speaking, the areas of the United States that typically vote Republican are projected to be the hardest hit by climate change, noted Joseph Majkut, a climate policy director at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, who was not involved in the study.
“Most of the risk maps show that climate change is going to be terrible for Trump country,” Majkut told The Atlantic. “It’s not clear at all ― from these maps ― why reducing climate change is not a more urgent issue for Republicans, purely as a matter of representing their people.”