The Bottom Line on Climate Change - Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas

This report was developed by the Risky Business Project, whose mission is to quantify the economic risks to the U.S. from unmitigated climate change. This report focuses on the Southeast and Texas and offers a first step toward defining the range of potential economic consequences to this region based on current climate projections through 2100.

The assessment looks at climate risks for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. According to the report, this region is poised for further economic growth in the coming years. In 2013, manufacturing contributed $2.1 trillion to the U.S. economy - more than 12% of GDP - and accounted for 88% of all U.S. exports, a remarkable 51% increase from declines during the last recession. One of the most economically productive parts of the country, the Southeast is also highly susceptible to severe climate risks within the coming years. 

This resource was featured in the July 31, 2015, ASAP Newsletter.

"The peeps from Risky Business (Bloomberg, Paulsen, & Steyer along with their huge supporting cast) are at it again - this time with a report on potential impacts of climate change on productivity, energy costs, and health in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas. Despite telling ASAP members things they already know (the region is hot and getting hotter), they do a good job of translating those changes into potential economic impacts. Impacts such as: 

1. The Southeast region will likely see an average increase of 4% to 12% in energy costs by mid-century, with a 1-in-20 chance these costs will increase by more than 38% by the end of the century
2. If we continue on our current emissions path, between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion in existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050
3. Kentucky will likely experience the third largest crop losses in the country. By mid-century, its grain and oilseed crops of as much as 32% annually (69% annually by the end of the century), absent adaptation."

The results are given in an overview of projected climate impacts on the region, and on manufacturing specifically.  A detailed state by state analysis is provided with specifics on the impacts of heat, energy use, sea level rise, agriculture, labor and productivity. The results are not only those outcomes most likely to occur but also lower-probability, higher-cost climate futures - or tail risks.

Among the report’s findings:

By 2030, $69 billion in coastal property in Florida could flood at high tide that is not at risk today, and that amount is projected to climb to $152 billion by 2050.

In Alabama, extreme heat driven by climate change likely will claim up to 350 additional lives each year by 2020-2039 and up to 760 additional lives by 2040-2059, assuming the current population size. For comparison, there were 852 auto fatalities in Alabama in 2013.

By mid-century, heat-related labor productivity declines across all sectors in Kentucky will likely cost the state economy up to $770 million each year, with a 1-in-20 chance of costing more than $1.1 billion a year.

Without adaptation by farmers, commodity crops are likely to face severe yield declines. Over the next 5 to 25 years, the Southeast will likely see losses in corn yields of up to 21%, and in soybean yields of up to 14%.

The report finds that across the region there is potential to significantly reduce these risks if policymakers and business leaders act to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate.

The Risky Business Project is a non-partisan initiative co-chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, and Henry M. Paulson, Jr. former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. This year’s (2015) committee included former University of Miami President Donna Shalala, a Clinton administration alum, and George Shultz, who served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.


Publication Date: July 30, 2015

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  • Assessment

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