Climate change is risky business for US Southeastern states: new report

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 4 minutes
28 July 2015

NEW YORK: The Southeastern states of the US are facing severe economic risks because of climate change, a new report finds. In particular, between US$48.2 billion and US$68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the region will likely be below sea level by 2050 – with US$23 billion worth in Florida alone.

The Risky Business project has just released its latest report, ‘Come Heat and High Water’, which quantifies the economic risks from the impacts of higher temperatures, rising sea levels and coastal storm surge which will be aggravated by climate change.

“Risky Business is waving a warning flag over the now healthy economies of America’s Southeastern states,” says Amy Davidsen, US Executive Director, The Climate Group. “Extreme weather events worsened by runaway climate change will seriously impact local businesses, not only because their energy demand will skyrocket but also because agricultural yield and labor productivity will be at much greater risk of decline.

“The authors make clear the business case for managing the effects of climate change early on, something which the influential companies which are part of RE100 are well aware and acting on today.”

RE100 is The Climate Group’s initiative to support the most influential companies around the world in their journey to go 100% renewable. Increasingly, businesses from the US to China and India are getting a better understanding of the benefits of renewable energy, such as protection from the fluctuating price of energy.

A striking example of how going renewable makes good business sense is the recent reconversion of an old coal plant to a 100% renewable energy-powered data center by tech giant Google as part of the company’s commitment to power all operations through renewable energy.


By the end of the century, average summer temperatures are expected to be 90 Fahrenheit degrees (more than 32 degrees Celsius), the report states. Such heat will heavily impact agriculture, health and labor production.

If no action is taken, among other issues, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also forecasts with high confidence “consequences for health of lost work capacity and reduced labor productivity in vulnerable populations.” Just in Tennessee, this will likely cost the economy up to US$1.3 billion each year.

The Southeastern states of the US are particularly exposed to such threats because of their economic reliance on agriculture and manufacturing – and the large amount of businesses and people along their coastline. The rising temperature will accelerate electricity demand, which will increase Florida’s expenditures by almost a fifth by mid-century – a bill which is US$4.3 billion higher.

However, it is not too late to act. The study suggests climate change must be taken into consideration as a business factor during planning processes, with those businesses that move first expected to also be first to grasp the economic and social benefits.

“This report provides a framework for measuring climate risk,” conclude the authors, “and we’re confident it will lead more businesses, more economists, and more investors to improve the way they capture climate risk. As this starts to happen, we are confident that we will see a huge shift toward more resilient and more climate-friendly investments.”

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by Ilario D'Amato

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