Which U.S. cities will fare best in a warming world — and which will be hit hardest?
Global warming will reshape the economies of American cities, and at the top of the list of metro areas that will be worst hit is San Francisco, according to a report by Moodys Analytics released Thursday. The economic research firm looked at the way climate-change-driven challenges interact with local economies to determine which of the United States 100 most populous metropolitan areas had the greatest risks in the coming decades. It examined two different categories of risks: the long-term ones of drought, heat and sea-level rise, and the short-term shocks of natural disasters including hurricanes, wildfires and floods. The scores reflect a citys exposure and their potential damage given their local economies. The San Francisco area, the countrys fourth largest in terms of gross domestic product, is not the worst off when facing any of the three long-term challenges individually, but it has bigger cumulative problems. Baton Rouge is the least exposed to the chronic issues of drought, heat and sea-level rise, although Louisiana as a whole faces challenges from natural disasters. Theres a lot of variation. Its very clear that climate change will have an impact on regional economies over the next 30 years, but exactly how that looks really depends on how things play out policy-wise, said Adam Kamins, a senior director at Moodys Analytics who wrote the report. The results are going to be dramatically different. Heres the full list of the top 10 metro areas most exposed to the combined effect of heat, sea-level rise and water stress, according to the Moodys report: New York City faced an especially tricky future, given that Manhattan is surrounded by water and frequent flooding could prove crippling to an economy where much activity and the ability to travel is tied to low-lying land or subway tunnels, according to the report. Some cities were surprisingly resilient to chronic challenges related to climate change, even if they remain exposed to climate-linked disasters such as hurricanes: Baton Rouge benefits from ample access to fresh water and, since it is not on the coast, is spared from sea-level rise. Heres the full list of the top 10 metro areas with the least risk: The report also tried to project the economic consequences of adaptation to climate change, modeling what would happen if American society took measures earlier or delayed them, and weighing them against the consequences of winding down fossil fuels in major producers such as the Dakotas. For example, if the United States takes swift action to transition away from fossil fuels, energy-dependent states such as Alaska and Oklahoma are hit harder economically than others. If it delays action, states with greater physical risks such as Florida, New Jersey and New York will face more painful economic consequences. The analysis also looked at risks related to climate-driven natural disasters: hurricanes, wildfires and floods. Economic risks from that measure were more concentrated along the east coast, in part because the toll of hurricanes can be so high. Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and North Carolina were the worst-off states for climate-driven disasters, while the worst hit cities were nearly all in the Carolinas and Florida. Some areas come out relatively well on some of the indicators. Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee have aquifers that insulate them from drought. Since Montana and the Dakotas have a cold climate and arent coastal, they are better protected against the physical challenges of a warming climate, but their fossil-fuel-dependent economies face challenges as the world transitions toward renewable energy. The Midwest strikes me as the part of the country that is probably the least vulnerable, Kamins said.