democracy is a work in progress

Climate Change

Problem Brief


Key Considerations


Climate change is driving migration all over the world, most of it within country borders but some across borders. With increases in extreme weather events, sea level rise, and environmental degradation, climate change is expected to trigger more population movement within and across borders. Reasons for displacement may include slow-developing events like desertification or soil degradation, leading to reduced water supplies and food production and economic deterioriation. In addition, climate change will continue to increase the frequency and devastation of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, heavy rains, and floods.

A warming world and more frequent environmental extremes will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, especially in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Some reports have suggested that migration from Central America into the US and from North Africa into Europe have already begun. Forecasts of future migration vary, ranging from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants worldwide by 2050.


We are already facing a massive need in the US to rebuild the infrastructure in our oldest communities and the roadways and rail lines that connect them. Both political parties have talked about committing up to $2 trillion to the repair and maintenance effort.

The need for infrastructure repair and the known impacts of climate change offer a small opportunity to combine repair efforts and adaptation measures to help reduce total costs. Such a combined approach would enable the US to execute a coordinated long-term strategy for infrastructure durability and community protection.

National Debt

One way or the other, climate change will place substantial financial burdens on the country. Future expenses will cover emergency responses to floods, fires, and storm-related damage and rebuildling and relocating entire communities. Expenses will also include construction of new infrastructure to help communities and industries survive and thrive despite the coming changes. These are circumstances that have typically received substantial support from the federal government.

With the debt escalating to new peace-time highs, and new demands being asked of the federal government, it is fair to wonder just how much the government will be able to afford to contribute to emissions reductions and adaptation measures.

Related Problems: National Debt, Infrastructure, Immigration

Researched and written by George Linzer
Reviewed by Lisa Palmer

Published on November 5, 2019

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