democracy is a work in progress

Problem Scope

Climate change is global and its direct effects will vary from region to region. The US will experience direct impacts from climate change within our borders and indirect impacts from climate change beyond our borders.

Direct Impacts

Within the US, different parts of the country are experiencing climate change in different ways. The East Coast has seen more frequent flooding from sea level rise than the West Coast. The western states are experiencing more damaging drought and wildfires.

Climate impacts can be either relatively sudden and calamitous or slow and less likely to make headlines. Sudden and calamitous impacts include extreme weather events such as the hurricanes that flooded the lower end of New York City and much of the New Jersey shore in 2012 and Houston in 2017. Just in the last 30 years, the US has experienced 218 extreme weather events that have cost the nation $1.5 trillion in damages. Half of those events and half of the costs have come in the last 10 years (2009-2018).

Extreme weather events have increased in number and cost since 1989

Extreme weather events have increased in number and cost since 1989

Less noticeable changes, like those that are increasing ocean temperatures or producing more warmer days throughout the year, will have long term impacts on the availability of water for drinking, farming, and ranching; migration and extinction of fish and other species harvested for food; and the spread of infectious diseases. Climate change impacts on water resources, in particular, are straining already difficult water-sharing arrangements between Georgia and Florida and among several states in the west.

Indirect Impacts

As climate change disrupts food supplies and economies in other parts of the world, its impact in other parts of the world will also be felt in the US. As growing seasons for crops are affected in South America and Australia, for example, we should expect to see less produce from those regions in our grocery stores.

At the same time, climate-related disruptions to the economies in Central America can produce, and some have argued, already has produced increased migration to the US.

Related Problems: National Debt, Infrastructure, Immigration

Contributors: George Linzer

Reviewed by Lisa Palmer

Published: November 5, 2019

Please support our work. Your donation helps make our journalism possible. Rooted in history, analysis, problem-solving, and leadership – ingredients we believe can build common ground and inspire a better future.

Donate Now

Progress Updates

Gloomy Climate Report Obscures Effective Actions

2021-09-23T15:58:52-05:00September 7th, 2021|

The UN’s latest warning is “code red for humanity” and cast its usual pall over the news cycle, overshadowing the many successful efforts focused on counteracting climate change.

Climate Change Status Report 01.26.2021

2021-09-30T08:18:23-05:00January 26th, 2021|

As President Biden seeks to repair a divided nation, market forces and the pandemic economy may be aligned to create opportunity for his climate agenda.

Leader Profiles

Larry Grimstad: Renewable Energy Investor


Through personal projects and his business, banker Larry Grimstad has invested in wind and solar energy projects as the smart business choice for building a more stable future for his community.

Danielle Vogel: Climate Change Grocer


Frustrated by Congress' inability to act on climate change, Danielle Vogel decided to start a grocery store for the specific purpose of improving the world’s climate, as she says, “one bite at a time.”

Go to Top