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Climate Change Will Harm Economies Of Southern States Most, Study Finds

Participants in the People's Climate March, which took place in April, mobilized for climate, jobs and justice.
Windsor Johnson
/
NPR
Participants in the People's Climate March, which took place in April, mobilized for climate, jobs and justice.

Climate change is going to cause disproportionate economic harm to parts of the United States that are already pretty hot, according to a study published in the journal Science.

The study by scientists and economists from the  Climate Impact Lab suggests rising temperatures could increase a national income gap.

In south and southeastern states, higher temperatures mean higher costs: for electricity, crop loss, reduced worker productivity. And, for human lives. The scientists say thousands more people will die every year in southern and southeastern states because of heat-related causes.

People in the Northwest, Midwest and Northeast might fare better. Mainly, warmer temperatures there might mean better crop yields.

But the scientists say the overall impact on America’s gross domestic product, the total value of stuff we produce in a year, would be negative. The damage done to south and southeastern states’ economies would outweigh benefits elsewhere.

“You see a similar pattern internationally, where countries in the tropics are more heavily impacted by climate change,” lead author Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, told The New York Times. “But this is the first study to show that same pattern of inequality in the United States.”

The study didn’t look at potential effects of heat-related migration — like, someone moving from Florida where it’s hot to New York where it’s cooler. And researchers say they couldn’t account for how technology developments — like heat-resistant crops or cheaper air conditioning — might make the country's economy more resilient.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.
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