Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but an economic issue as well that impacts all 100 counties across North Carolina. As the country experiences an increasing number of billion-dollar disasters , the challenge for us all is to minimize the harm to families and communities and plan for the future. Since 1980, we have seen the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters  in the U.S. increase by 400 percent. Profound weather shifts from rising sea levels and flooding to drought and forest fires require effective preparation , planning and response from our leaders.
The financial impact is increasingly relevant to county and state governments as federal officials, despite increasing disasters, consider scaling back federal  assistance, and push states to take on greater responsibility for disaster preparation and recovery  with their own resources. Here in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew displaced thousands of families and caused $4.8 billion in damages across 50 counties we all saw that the federal withdrawal approach did not work and instead hurt our state. North Carolina policymakers have made just a $300 million commitment to Eastern NC to date despite documented unmet need of nearly $900 million.
A recent study published by Science that represents a major breakthrough for the field of climate economics  finds climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the U.S. as there are “enormous disparities in how rising temperatures will affect American communities.” After simulating the costs of global warming in excruciating detail, modeling every day of weather in every U.S. county during the 21st century, the study finds  the “South and lower Midwest will bear the brunt of the economic costs associated with climate change through the end of the century.” Coastal communities are projected  to take a toll from rising seas and strengthening hurricanes while the South will be hurt by a decline in farming caused by rising temperatures, along with increasing energy demands to keep up with the heat.
For North Carolina this means many poor and rural parts of the state will be affected the most. Below is a sortable table that shows how much of its income each county in North Carolina stands to lose through the end of the century; linking climate projections with economic effects like mortality, labor productivity, energy demand and crop yields. Based on the analysis it is clear that in order to protect North Carolina’s economy and quality of life for people today and future generations, the state and all 100 counties must be cognizant of climate change and plan for its economic effects – especially in communities most in need.
Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.
Climate Change Cost in Each County of North Carolina
|County||Total Estimated Damages: % of GDP|
(percentage of economy lost)
(changes in average yields for
corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton)