In a new paper published in June in the journal Science, a team of economists and public policy analysts, incorporating a wide range of climate-modeling data, quantified the economic damage that climate change could wreak on the United States in the years to come. What they found was a clear bifurcation: In the North and West, agricultural yields will stay more or less constant, as will energy expenditures and direct damage from storms. The South and Southeast—the region stretching from South Carolina down through Georgia and Florida and out to Texas—are another matter. The electrical grid will be overwhelmed by an increased need for air conditioners. Crops will wither and die. Heat-related illnesses and deaths will soar: By the end of this century, the study predicts, mortality rates in parts of the South could surge dramatically.
What the heat doesn’t harm, the storms will. Exacerbated by warming waters, cyclones and hurricanes will pummel the shorelines. Picture Texas after Harvey—the wide Houston boulevards converted to canals, the confused horses wading through the blue-gray floodwater, the shudder of explosions at the flooded chemical plant, the three-year-old girl who was found by rescue teams clinging to her mother’s drowned corpse. Now picture the same scenes playing out in city after city, several times a year. Billions will be spent on relief, rebuilding, and prevention efforts. In the space of a decade, according to the Science study, direct damage from storms may cost many Southern counties at least 10 percent of their GDP—annually. By the last years of this century, an unprecedented redistribution of wealth could take place, as climate refugees flee north. “People living in the South are going to be much poorer, and people in the North are going to be much richer,” says Solomon Hsiang, the lead researcher on the study. “That will lead to a widening of inequality. In essence, one group will get a big boost.”
Matthew Shaer, States of Denial: Trump insists that climate change isn’t real. From crop failures to killer storms, his Southern supporters are paying the price, New Republic, November, 2017