New Report Details Near-Term Costs of Climate Change Across North Carolina’s Economy

Climate costs will climb in major sectors of the state's economy without urgent action to curb pollution and build resilience

December 14, 2020
Chandler Green, (803) 981-2211,
Julie Murphy, 919-219-6387,

 (RALEIGH, NC — Dec 14, 2020) A new report by RTI International, commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund, shows that climate change impacts will impose significant costs on North Carolina’s residents and its economy in the coming decades without urgent action to curb climate-warming pollution. Using the best available evidence on a range of climate impacts — from extreme heat to coastal and inland flooding — the report showcases the projected costs on eight major sectors of the state’s economy within the next 20 to 30 years.

“This report underscores the many ways that climate change is already costing North Carolinians — with growing damages affecting homes, farms, roads, and businesses across the state as sea levels rise and as hurricanes and other storms become more intense,” said George Van Houtven, author of the report and researcher at RTI International. “If climate change remains unchecked, those costs will put a growing strain on North Carolinians’ health and economy within the next few decades.”

According to the report, residential and commercial properties will be hit hard by flooding: More than 1,300 residential and commercial properties along the state’s coast, valued at almost $340 million, are already at risk of chronic flooding. By 2045, this estimate increases to almost 15,600 properties valued at almost $4 billion, threatening the local tax base needed for community services, like schools and hospitals.

North Carolinians’ health and safety are also at risk from extreme heat: in the Raleigh, Wilmington, and Fayetteville areas, emergency room visits due to heat stroke and other heat-related conditions are projected to increase two- to threefold from 2010 to 2050. In many cases, these costs and impacts will be disproportionately felt by low-income and socially disadvantaged populations who have fewer resources and options for protecting themselves.

In addition to property and human health, the report covers costs to agriculture and forestry; commercial fishing and aquaculture; transportation infrastructure; water infrastructure and services; energy supply and demand; and recreation and tourism.

“These mounting costs should send a warning to our state leaders: North Carolina can’t afford to delay concrete policy action on climate change,” said Dionne Delli-Gatti, Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs. “Crucially, the state needs to act decisively to put a firm limit on climate-warming pollution — an action that can help curb the worst impacts of climate change, while growing clean energy jobs and protecting the communities most impacted by pollution and climate impacts.”

The report presents a range of key actions the state can take to prevent the worst climate impacts to come and build resilience across its economy. Policy recommendations for curbing climate-warming pollution include putting a price and an enforceable limit on pollution that together incentivize pollution reductions, cap total pollution, and spur clean energy growth. For example, North Carolina could join 10 states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic that are already successfully reducing pollution from the power sector through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). At the same time, the state also needs to build on its resilience efforts, including incorporating more nature-based shorelines that can protect against storm surge and incentivizing resilient farming practices.

Read the full report here.

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