Climate change is likely to worsen existing inequalities in the U.S., with the poorest areas of the country poised to lose as much as 20 percent of their income by the end of the century if greenhouse gases are not significantly reduced.
By 2100, the economic loss from warming temperatures will be on par with the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, with states in the South and lower Midwest to be most severely affected, according to new research. Overall, each 1 degree C of temperature rise is forecast to cost the U.S. economy 1.2 percent in lost GDP, on average.
“Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States,” said Soloman Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the authors of the study.
“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.”
While large areas of the South will suffer economically and socially from heatwaves, storms, and failing crops, parts of New England and the Pacific Northwest will do comparatively well, with balmier conditions reducing deaths from the winter cold and some crops responding well to the extra warmth.
Previous research has shown that in some areas of the U.S., people have experienced seemingly favorable alterations to the climate. But the new study, conducted by a trio of U.S. universities and published in Science, warns that unchecked climate change will prove costly for the whole country.
“We are finely balanced at the moment, but even areas that will do well end up being harmed if the world warms more severely,” said Robert Kopp, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University and another coauthor. “That borderline of net harm marches northwards over the course of the century.”
“Climate change will be an amplifying factor in preexisting economic inequalities. The warmest parts of the country are also the poorest parts of the country.”