Tue, Aug 31, 2021

Extreme heat: The economic and social consequences for the United States

Report by Adrienne Arsht – Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center

Related Experts: Kathy Baughman McLeod, Daniel Stander,

Climate Change & Climate Action Resilience United States and Canada

A boy walks near water spraying from an open fire hydrant in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York July 5, 2010. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

With climate change expected to make periods of extreme heat more frequent, widespread, and severe in the coming decades, Extreme Heat: The Economic and Social Consequences for the United States—a new report produced by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center with analysis conducted by Vivid Economics—quantifies the impacts of heat under current and future conditions. 

The report reveals how heat stress disproportionately affects specific regions, racial groups, and economic sectors across the United States, providing policymakers and investors with new, quantitative evidence on the economic and human dimensions of the challenge. Among the report’s key findings: Nearly all US counties are feeling the economic burn of extreme heat, with labor-productivity losses expected to cost half a trillion dollars annually by 2050, disproportionately afflicting Black and Hispanic workers. The report also finds that extreme heat will claim nearly 60,000 lives a year by 2050.

The paper considers only a subset of the ways in which extreme heat can impact the US economy and society. It also appraises impacts only in “normal”—as opposed to unusually warm—years. As a result, the report provides a conservative view of the threat. This is in part because the effects of heat are diffuse and difficult to isolate, and also due to incomplete data sources and the need for more of them. To effectively combat extreme heat and understand the extent of its destruction, we must address these information gaps and act swiftly and collectively to implement solutions.

Check out more of our top findings in the graphs below: