Mapping the Effects of Climate Change

While there are countless reasons to be concerned with climate change, a recent study published in Science magazine has given us another one: The economic issues exacerbated by rising temperatures.


Dubbed “the most detailed economic assessment of the phenomenon ever conducted,” by Robinson Meyer from The Atlantic, the study found that many lower-income counties in the Southeast and Midwest will suffer the most devastating effects of the changes, while parts of the Northeast will actually boast a more moderate climate.


Instead of looking at the country as a whole as many previous studies have, the research divided the United States into separate regions. This allowed for more precision when predicting how a changing climate will affect local economies.


The results were telling, to say the least. Falling agricultural yields, rising energy costs and an increase in the mortality rate are just few detrimental effects that will hurt many lower income counties. The study also predicts that climate change will cost the country 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product for every additional Celsius degree.


Meyer noted that the study did, however, leave out a couple important factors. Non-market goods and tail risks weren’t included— meaning the economic value of less measurable losses, like different species, and unforeseen effects caused by unusual events weren’t considered.


This concerning data opens up an often-overlooked topic in the discussion of climate change, beyond the obvious need for conservation and sustainability— climate change could have devastating fiscal effects on a massive portion of the United States.


Many of what will be the most affected counties are currently the least concerned with climate change. Overwhelming amounts of lower-income counties that carried Trump through the election will be hit hardest, adding to the confusion as to why climate change isn’t drawing more concern from the Republican Party.


The study is just the first creation from a collection of economists and policy experts from the University of California, the University of Chicago, Rutgers University and the Rhodium Group called the Climate Impact Lab. In response to many of the concerns raised by this study and others, the group has created SEAGLAS— a program designed to combine research and regional policy-making with a greater worldview.


According to Meyer, the program could be a useful tool in considering other relationships between climate change and economic standings, despite its still being an imperfect science. We at Scoville believe that if nothing else, the studies produced by the Climate Impact Lab will create a conversation that needs to be had, especially in the places that will be affected the most.