Jan 29, 2019

Trump country faces worst long-term climate change

Many regions facing the biggest economic threats from global warming voted for President Trump and GOP candidates in the 2018 midterms, new analysis released via the Brookings Institution shows.

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Data: Brookings Institution and Climate Impact Lab; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Why it matters: It highlights how lots of areas facing the greatest peril are backing policymakers who oppose strong federal steps to cut emissions.

  • But the authors argue that the granular data offers a political opportunity to push for climate policies — if advocates can get the message right.

What they did: The paper uses data on projected long-term harm and benefits by region from the Climate Impact Lab research consortium.

  • They examined changes in farm yields, coastal damage from rising seas, heat-related threats to workers, and more.
  • The authors grafted those projections onto voting patterns in recent elections.

What they found: "Activists who want to change the political equation can derive a clear strategy from the harm data: Work in the reddish swing states by focusing spotlights and cost accounting on the severe economic effect wrought by climate change," the paper states.

  • "Party attitudes on climate change could shift quickly there as people are confronted with climate reality," argues the analysis titled, "How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing."

By the numbers: 9 of the 10 states facing the biggest long-term losses in county income voted for Trump in 2016, including Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama, the analysis states.

  • Counties that voted for Trump will face, by the end of the century, average GDP loss of 4.8%, compared to 3.3% in counties that Hillary Clinton carried, the paper estimates.
  • In congressional districts that backed Republicans last November, residents face an average 4.4% hit to regional income, compared to a 2.7% loss projected for districts that backed Democratic candidates.

The bottom line: "Drill down on the political geography of climate damage and it becomes clear that in much of the country Republicans are voting for people who are opposed to climate policy, even as they are most exposed to climate impacts," the paper states.

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