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Climate Change

Problem Brief


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 is 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

Researched and written by George Linzer
Reviewed by Lisa Palmer

Published on November 5, 2019

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