Regional Effects of Climate Change, Part 1
It's no longer up for debate whether or not climate change is happening. It's happening.
According to the 4th National Climate Assessment, its impact will vary by region. Across the US, each state will experience climate change differently, depending on its local industries, infrastructure, and culture. Some of these findings will manifest in the coming decades. However, in many of these areas, we have already seen these events occur. For example, insect infestations in Michigan and wildfires in California.
This article will cover the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Northwest. If your region is not covered, you can read about it in part two of this series.
It's natural to feel a little bit scared or stressed out by the reality of climate change. But we're sharing this information in hopes that it will empower you to take action. Understanding how climate change will affect the area you live in can help you prepare and support your community. As you'll see in this article, the best actions we can take as individuals are to advocate for positive, environmentally-focused changes in our community.
The Northeast is home to Dunkin Donuts, beautiful natural landscapes, and a whole lot of American history. This highly populated region is composed of big cities and many small rural communities—all of which rely on the four distinct seasons. Here are a few ways that climate change will uniquely impact this region.
Human livelihoods: Many of the Northeast's rural economies rely on the seasonal tourism provided by autumn leaf peepers, summer beachgoers, and winter skiers. As climate change grows more intense, these seasons will become less distinct—winters will become milder, spring will come earlier in the year, etc. This will alter the ecosystems that contribute to tourism and farming and thus significantly impact rural livelihoods.
Changing coastlines: The Northeast coastline is crucial to local and national commerce. Rising sea levels, warming ocean temperatures and acidification, threaten marine ecosystems and, therefore, the livelihoods of the industries that surround them, such as fishing, recreation, and tourism. For states like Maine, this means less lobster, which will significantly impact the economy and its cultural identity.
City problems: The Northeast is home to some of the country's largest urban centers (NYC, Boston, etc.). Extreme weather and rising sea levels will have a major negative impact on infrastructure, local economies, and historic sites. Something like coastal flooding could damage critical infrastructure like electricity, resulting in thousands losing their air conditioning during a heatwave.
What you can do:
-Support organizations like Rural Climate Network that aim to help communities mitigate the effects of climate change.
-If you are an urban dweller, encourage your city to plant more trees to help keep the environment cool.
-Work to offset your carbon footprint.
The Southeast is known for its hospitality, country music, sweet tea, and beautiful beaches. This region is culturally and historically rich. Climate change poses a major threat to the southern lifestyle. Weather will be extreme in these states, which have rapidly growing populations and already are naturally warm. Here are a few ways that climate change will uniquely impact this region.
Infrastructure & health: Climate change will impact urban centers in the Southeast in two significant ways: infrastructure and human health. Heat, flooding, air pollution, and vector-borne disease could affect the livelihood of residents. Extreme weather is likely also to impact transportation infrastructure, drinking water, and wastewater treatment.
Changing coastlines: Just as in the Northeast, the Southeast coast is crucial for local economies and industries. Extreme rainfall and rising sea levels will increase flooding, destroy infrastructure, and negatively impact property values. In areas like Southeast Florida, sea levels are projected to rise as much as 4.5 feet by 2070.
Natural resources: Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and warming ocean temperatures will transform natural ecosystems. Animal and insect species habitats will be destroyed or change completely. Crucial natural resources that rural populations depend on are at risk.
What you can do:
-Donate to groups like Nature Conservancy, which is partnering with local municipalities to implement a regional action climate plan.
-If you live on the coast, talk to your town about implementing natural infrastructure such as mangroves or oyster reefs to protect the coastline
-Plant trees to reduce your carbon footprint and combat severe heat.
The Midwest: Home to the nicest people, the harshest winters, and most of America's food production. Climate change has already impacted the economy, natural spaces, and the health of people living there. The warming climate has created favorable conditions for invasive insects that are destroying the region's resources and causing health issues.
Farming: Agriculture is not simply a huge part of Midwestern economies; it's a part of the culture. Warmer weather and more humidity have caused soil erosion and an increase in pests and pathogens. More bugs and poor quality soil have a direct impact on food production...for the entire country.
Trees: As seen in the agricultural industry, pests and invasive species are also impacting the region's forests. Because of this, more trees are dying and fewer are growing. We don't have to tell you how important trees are in combating climate change.
Human health: Poor air quality, extreme heat, and heavy rainfalls could lead to a substantial loss of life for Midwesterners. It's projected that climate change will worsen already existing health conditions, and new health threats will be introduced by (you guessed it) disease-carrying insects.
What you can do:
-Donate and support groups like Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which provides education around clean energy and sustainable living practices.
-Get involved with the Midwest chapter of NRDC, which is fighting to protect pollinators and restore critical native wildflower habitat.
-Join a local tree planting group like ReLeaf Michigan and work to offset your carbon footprint.
It rains a lot in the Northwest—but you probably already knew that. This region is home to some of the greenest landscape in the country (thanks to the abundance of rain). With climate change, the Northwest can expect a lot more rain, which will put the livelihood of residents at risk and threaten existing infrastructure.
Natural resources: Northwest rural, tribal, and Indigenous communities rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. The warming climate will lead to more wildfires and water scarcities. Farming, fishing, drinking water, air quality, and salmon habitats are all at risk.
Cultural identity: The Northwest has unique landscape, wildlife, and plants. These contribute to its cultural identity and outdoor recreation activities. Extreme weather will change landscapes and impact cultural values, identity, and quality of life. For example, reduced snowfall will dramatically impact winter sports like skiing at places like Mount Hood in Oregon.
Infrastructure: The Northwest can expect more rain and heat waves from climate change. Extreme weather events will put infrastructure like water supplies and transportation at risk. For example, if hurricane flooding closes a major highway, it could stop you from getting to work, seeing friends and family, and even going to the hospital.
How can you help?
-Help strengthen assistance for Indigenous communities through supporting groups like the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
-Join or donate to a local climate action group like Climate Solutions, which fights for transformational government policies.
- Become a CarbonForest member and erase your carbon footprint
Regardless of your region, it's important to remember that you are not powerless to create change and help protect your community. Increasing awareness of future issues can help you garner support from those around you.
Stay tuned for part two of this series!
Hi! Great questions. While we’re not flooding experts here is a resource by to a tool (https://water.weather.gov/ahps/) created by the NOAA and the National Weather Service where you can put in your location and it will give you probabilities on the likelihood of flooding in your region or community. Thank you for the kind words about our work. We care a lot! Please let us know what else we can do to help.
Are the Flood prediction tables being changed by scientists to address climate change? I live in Kelso Washington by the Columbia River and Cowlitz River and we are having severe 100 year flooding events every 6 to 10 years. The Cowlitz runs through our cities and the Columbia is our port. Most people here are becoming worried. Thank you so much. I’m very greatful for your education and dedication regarding this problem.