Climate change will make the U.S. poorer and will further inequality, with the South hit hardest, a new study shows.
"The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, calculates probable economic harms and benefits for the more than 3,100 counties in the United States under different possible scenarios for worldwide emissions of heat-trapping gases," writes Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press. Researchers looked at agriculture, energy costs, labor costs, coastal damage from rising seas, crime and deaths. They then estimated the effect on average local income by the end of the century.
The team created an interactive map of their findings. "The county hit hardest if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated is tiny and impoverished Union County in Florida, where median income would take a 28 percent hit. And among counties with at least 500,000 people, Polk County in central Florida would suffer the most, with damages of more than 17 percent of income. Seven of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of projected county income losses from climate change are in Florida, along with two in Texas and one in Georgia. Half of these are among the poorest counties in the country," Borenstein reports.
The poorest third of U.S. counties could sustain economic damage that costs as much as 20 percent of their income if warming proceeds at its current rate, writes Doyle Rice of USA Today. For each degree rise in the Earth's temperature, scientists believe the U.S. might see damage equal to 0.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product annually by the 2080s, Rice reports. Researchers analyzed production of four different crops: soy, wheat, corn and cotton. Much of the Midwest could endure "the type of productivity losses we saw during the Dust Bowl," said Solomon Hsiang, lead author of the study.
Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann told AP that it's "a fascinating and ambitious study." However, because many extreme weather factors weren't or can't yet be calculated, he said the study "can at best only provide a very lower limit on the extent of damages likely to result from projected climate changes."