Report explores economic impact of climate change on all 50 U.S states

How much could climate change cost your state? Public policy group offers state-by-state assessment.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

In case you missed this development: In late April, a federal appeals court in California upheld a state air pollution law that puts stricter limits on carbon dioxide emissions than the federal law. The law had been challenged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association. California has the right to request waivers from the federal standards because it had clean air regulations on the books before the federal government did.

In any case, the appeals court dismissed the case for many reasons, most of all because it couldn't see evidence that the laws had caused injury or economic harm. Although I'd be willing to bet that there is another appeal in the offing.

Which brings me to the theme of this post: the need for states to exercise individual rights and policies about climate change, even if the federal government won't or can't do anything about it. A public policy and research organization called American Security Project suggests that ignoring climate change will have a specific economic impact in every one of the 50 U.S. states, depending on what local governments decide to do about it. Here's the video describing the impetus behind the project, called Pay Now, Pay Later.

American Security Project board member Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and a former Administrator of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency said:

“Too often the debate about climate breaks down over cost, with many Americans rightfully concerned about what limiting pollution would do to our economy. But what this series of reports shows is that there is a cost on the other side of the ledger, too. There will be costs to our economic security from climate change—and significant ones at that—if we do nothing but continue business as usual.”

Yes, this organization has a political agenda, but I got a kick out of reading some of the individual state write-ups. I looked at three very different ones, including my home state of course. Here are some highlights:

Colorado: The challenge is that the state is heavily dependent on natural resources for its $11 billion recreation and tourism industry and for its $5.5 billion agricultural industry. The opportunity: Colorado sets up as fourth in the nation for solar and geothermal resources and 11th for wind power generation potential.

Florida: The biggest potential impact of climate change would be on Florida's real estate and the costs of severe weather. The report suggests: "As early as 2025, Florida will likely see economic losses of at least $27 billion each year." Agriculture and tourism would contribute to that hit. On the plus side: the state obviously has vast untapped renewable energy potential, especially in solar.

New Jersey: Ah, my home state. The Jersey Shore. Climate change could affect the coastline, which the report suggests represents close to $100 billion in land and property values and generates at least $30 billion in tourism for the state each year. The good news is that New Jersey could generate up to a third of its electricity from renewable energy sources; looking beyond its nuclear legacy, the state has lots of research and development going on in solar and wind generation.

What are the implications for your state? Click on the map to find out.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards