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U.S. sunbelt economy too hot to last

NEW YORK: A new report on the economic effect of climate change says up to US$68.7 billion of existing coastal property across 11 Southeast U.S. states plus Texas will be below sea level by 2050 – with US$23 billion worth in Florida alone.

Rising sea levels will also damage critical infrastructure, including water supply, energy, and transportation systems says a latest study from the Risky Business project – underwritten by several former U.S. Treasury secretaries and ex-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Risky Business report 'Come Heat and High Water' warns this region—already one of the hottest and most weather- vulnerable of the country—is facing the economic equivalent of terminal heat stroke.

charlotte-airportLead author Fiona Kinniburgh says Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina (Charlotte airport, right), South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as Texas to the west, have experienced a major manufacturing boom.

In 2013, manufacturing contributed US$2.1 trillion to the U.S. economy - more than 12 percent of GDP - and accounted for 88 percent of all U.S. exports, a 51 percent increase from declines during the last recession. So this region's economic vitality makes it one of the most productive parts of the United States according to Kinniburgh.

However with summer temperatures forecast to average 90 Fahrenheit by the end of the century, the report predicts the Southeastern U.S. and Texas will experience "significant drops in agricultural yield and labor productivity", along with increased sea level rise, higher energy demand, and rising mortality rates.

Meanwhile, residents and businesses will be affected by higher heat-related mortality, increased electricity demand, rising energy costs and declines in labor productivity – all factors threatening the manufacturing base that is driving the regional economy.

And in some cities, such as Miami and New Orleans, sea level rise will put significant amounts of existing coastal property at risk notes Kinniburgh.

"Risky Business is waving a warning flag over the now healthy economies of America's Southeastern states," added Amy Davidsen, US executive director of The Climate Group. "Extreme weather events worsened by runaway climate change will seriously impact local businesses, not only because their energy demand will skyrocket but also because agricultural yield and labor productivity will be at much greater risk of decline."

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