Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States

Kate Gordon
Posted on: 1/11/2016 - Updated on: 11/02/2018

Posted by

Tera Johnson



To date, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the economic risks our nation faces from the changing climate. Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path. The Risky Business research focused on the clearest and most economically significant of these risks: Damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge, climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand, and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.

Our research combines peer-reviewed climate science projections through the year 2100 with empirically-derived estimates of the impact of projected changes in temperature, precipitation, sea levels, and storm activity on the U.S. economy. We analyze not only those outcomes most likely to occur, but also lower-probability high-cost climate futures. Unlike any other study to date, we also provide geographic granularity for the impacts we quantify, in some cases providing county-level results.

Our findings show that, if we continue on our current path, many regions of the U.S. face the prospect of serious economic effects from climate change. However, if we choose a different path—if we act aggressively to both adapt to the changing climate and to mitigate future impacts by reducing carbon emissions—we can significantly reduce our exposure to the worst economic risks from climate change, and also demonstrate global leadership on climate.


Document Type
Sociopolitical Setting
Target Climate Changes and Impacts