A report published in June in the journal Science predicted that climate change would hit America hard but unevenly, with Texas among states bearing the brunt of the damage.
The findings highlighted flooding as a major risk factor for the region (as have dozens of other previous reports on climate change). Those warnings now ring particularly salient as Hurricane Harvey wreaks havoc on Texas — though it’s difficult to determine exactly how much climate change contributed to the disaster.
The report estimated that for every degree Celsius the temperature rises between now and the end of the century, America could see roughly 5.4 more deaths per 100,000 people. Those figures were far higher in many southern counties in Texas and Florida, however — the numbers there reach 20 to 40 deaths per 100,000.
“Past models had only looked at the United States as a single region,” Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers who was a lead author of the report, told The New York Times on June 29. Those models, he said, “missed this entire story of how climate change would create this large transfer of wealth between states.”
Several factors will contribute to the rising death toll, which were previously documented by many other reports on climate change. A 2012 report by the Climate Vulnerability Monitorcited flooding, heat waves, wildfires, and crop shortages as some of the primary issues. Other problems expected to affect America’s South include elevated energy use (to cool homes and buildings during heat waves) and increasing costs related to weather damage on the nation’s coast.
While Southern states will most likely face dire consequences as a result of the planet’s warming, others — mostly in the north — could emerge virtually scot-free, according to the report’s map.
An interactive map of temperatures and emissions based on the report is available on the Climate Impact Lab website.
Madeleine Sheehan Perkins wrote an earlier version of this post.