“Ever since climate change became a concern for policymakers and laypeople alike, the focus of public debate has largely been on mitigation: limiting greenhouse gas emissions, capturing carbon, and transitioning to renewable energy. Those efforts must continue if we hope to keep the planet hospitable. But it is also time to acknowledge that—no matter what we do—some measure of climate change is here to stay. The phenomenon has already affected the U.S. economy, U.S. national security, and human health. Such costs will only grow over time. The United States must build resilience and overhaul key systems, including those governing infrastructure, the use of climate data, and finance.
“Otherwise, the blow to the U.S. economy will be staggering. Assuming that current trends continue, coastal damage, increased spending on electricity, and lost productivity due to climate-related illness are projected to consume an estimated $500 billion per year by the time a child born today has settled into retirement. Other estimates suggest that the U.S. economy will lose about 1.2 percent of GDP per year for every degree Celsius of warming, effectively halving the country’s annual growth.
“Climate change also threatens to fray the United States’ social fabric. Although no region will be spared, some parts of the country—especially the South and the lower Midwest—will likely suffer more from climate change, and poor and vulnerable people across the United States will feel the greatest pain. Hundreds of thousands of people will be forced from their homes by coastal flooding. Against the backdrop of already high economic inequality, these effects will further deepen the United States’ political and regional cleavages…
“To prepare for this challenge, federal, state, and local governments should set aside funds to assist communities that receive large numbers of migrants. They should also identify mechanisms that would facilitate the transit and resettlement of displaced people—providing, among other things, modest cash grants to help individuals with their initial moving expenses. Governments should also ease the transition by offering job training and placement assistance, as well as tax relief to cover resettlement expenses. And to shore up the infrastructure in cities likely to be at the receiving end of internal migration, the public and private sectors should collaborate to create transitional housing units, develop additional capacity in schools and medical facilities, and strengthen social service provision. In other words, federal, state, and local governments need to consider how they will reconfigure themselves to deliver better support in the face of growing displacement, perhaps even creating a White House–led national relocation commission to coordinate federal efforts and strategy…”
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