Without a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, the southern portion of the United States will likely suffer broad economic devastation from the effects of climate change by the end of the 21st century, according to a new study.
Because many of those regions are already the poorest in the U.S., the effects would further heighten already rising income inequality.
Researchers from institutions including the University of Chicago and Rutgers, using large data sets culled from more than 100 climate studies, concluded that Gulf Coast states such as Florida and Louisiana will be exposed to the most severe sea level rise and storm surges. Those conditions could result in permanent 20% declines in incomes in some areas.
Without action on climate, other southern states will see extreme heat that the researchers say will increase violent crime, air conditioning costs, and overall mortality. Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia will also be among the states most severely impacted.
The south, though, would not be alone in enduring adverse effects.
“Here in the Midwest,” University of Chicago coauthor Amir Jina said in a news release, “we may see agricultural losses similar to the Dustbowl of the 1930s.”
That catastrophe, caused by agricultural overdevelopment, remains the worst human-caused ecological disaster in U.S. history. The ravages of the Dust Bowl were controlled within a few years, but the effects of climate change would be much more difficult to reverse.