FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 28, 2015
Contact: Tan Copsey, Communications Director,
Atlanta, Georgia – The Southeastern United States and Texas are uniquely at risk from climate change, according to a new report released today by the Risky Business Project – a non-partisan initiative chaired by Hank Paulson, Michael R. Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer. The report finds that across the region there is potential to significantly reduce these risks if policymakers and business leaders act to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate.
The report, Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas, finds that, across the Southeast, the average number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit is likely to increase from an average 9 days per year to up 62 days per year by mid-century. By the end of this century, this number will likely increase to 124 days per year.
Extreme heat will harm the health of people in the Southeast. Over the next 25 years, Texas will likely see up to 2,580 additional deaths per year and Florida up to 1,840 additional deaths per year due to the increase in extreme heat. By mid-century, these two states combined are likely to see up to almost 10,000 additional deaths per year. Elderly people will be particularly vulnerable to these changes, as will children and outdoor workers.
“Rising heat and humidity pose severe risks to the health of citizens across the Southeast, especially among the elderly, the infirm, and populations that do not have access to reliable air conditioning” said Risky Business Project Risk Committee member Dr. Al Sommer. “In the Southeast, where we are likely to see new temperature records, we will need better emergency response systems.”
“The Risky Business Southeast report drives home the reality that we must deal with climate risk before it’s too late,” said Risky Business Project Co-Chair Hank Paulson. “From more extreme heat that threatens labor productivity and crop yields in the agriculture sector to storm surges that could imperil infrastructure and manufacturing, which is driving new growth in the region, we face mounting risk to the economy and our way of life. Business and government leaders must face the fact that our current course is unsustainable.”
The Southeast region also faces the highest risks of coastal property losses in the nation as seas rise and storms surge. Between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050. Cities like Miami and New Orleans will likely be severely affected.
“Climate change poses major risks to Southeastern cities and to the health of people living in the region,” said Risky Business Project Co-Chair Michael R. Bloomberg. “By explaining the potential impacts of climate change on local communities, this report can help businesses and government make smart investments that protect infrastructure and improve people’s lives.”
Without adaptation by farmers commodity crops are likely to face severe yield declines. Over the next 5 to 25 years, the Southeast will likely see losses in corn yields of up to 21%, and in soybean yields of up to 14%. By the end of the century, these crops will take an even bigger hit: corn yields will likely decrease by up to 86%, and soybean yields will likely decrease by up to 76%. States that depend heavily on agriculture, like Kentucky, stand to be particularly affected.
“The Southeastern United States is already feeling the negative impacts of climate change—and if we don’t take action, people living throughout the region will pay the price,” said Risky Business Project Co-Chair Tom Steyer. “To protect our economic security in the region, business leaders, cities and investors must take swift action to mitigate the risks of climate change.”
Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas is the fourth report from the Risky Business Project. In 2014, the Project released Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States, which employed a standard risk-assessment analysis to determine the range of potential consequences of climate change for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy. Earlier this year, it released Heat in the Heartland, a follow-up report that zeroed in on potential impacts in the Midwest. More information can be found at www.riskybusiness.org.
About the Risky Business Project:
Led by Co-Chairs Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry Paulson and Tom Steyer, the Risky Business Project focuses on quantifying the economic risks from the impacts of our changing climate.
The underlying research was conducted by the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm that specializes in analyzing disruptive global trends. The Risky Business Project’s co-chairs are joined by members of a “Risk Committee,” that is composed of former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and George Shultz; former Senator Olympia Snowe; Al Sommer, M.D. former dean of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros; former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Greg Page, Executive Chairman of Cargill.
The Risky Business Project is a joint partnership of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute, and TomKat Charitable Trust. All three organizations have provided substantive staff input to the project, and supported the underlying independent research being released today. Learn more at riskybusiness.org and on Twitter @ClimateRisk.
Former President University of Miami and Risk Committee member Donna Shalala:
“Climate change is an urgent problem across the Southeast of our country. The potential cost of damage to private property from storm surges and sea-level rise is astronomical, especially in Florida. We’ve seen the warning signs, now we need to step up. The only responsible course is for us to come together to reduce these risks.”
Former US Secretary of the Treasury and Risk Committee member Bob Rubin:
“To manage the risk of climate change, we need to prepare for its likely impacts. But we also need to reduce our exposure to less probable but more extreme risks that threaten the region. In Florida, for example, this means more officials, business leaders and communities coming together to increase resilience to sea-level rise and storm surge.”
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Risk Committee member Henry Cisneros:
“Texas is one of the most vulnerable states to climate change in the United States. Dangerous levels of extreme heat are projected to threaten lives and dramatically reduce labor productivity. Business leaders across Texas need to take a hard look at this report and take steps to reduce these risks.”
Dr. Robert Kopp, Rutgers University, Lead scientist for Risky Business Project research:
“Sea-level rise is a serious problem for the Southeast. Our research shows how, in combination with storm surges, sea-level rise will cost the region billions of dollars. Sea-level rise makes moderate storm surges more damaging. For example, at Wilmington, NC, what was once considered the `1-in-100 year flood’ is expected to occur more than 30 times over the second half of the century. If we keep our current concentration of property and economic activity along the coast and don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the average annual storm damage in North Carolina will likely double by the end of the century.”