The 2100 Project: An Atlas for the Green New Deal

The 2100 Project: An Atlas for the Green New Deal

The 2100 Project: An Atlas for the Green New Deal

This Atlas was conceived in relation to three intersecting issues. First, excess carbon in the atmosphere is changing the world’s climate; sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, and destructive weather events are becoming more frequent. Second, because our systems of extraction, production and consumption are causing climate change, an incremental approach to the future is not an option. Third, the US population is expected to grow by at least 100 million people this century, adding significantly to what is already the world’s most consumptive, high-carbon economy.

Taking on these challenges requires that we ask some big—and unsettling—questions. What will be lost—economically, culturally, psychologically, physically—should the climate crisis continue unabated? How can we begin to come together around a response to the crisis that will reshape how and where we live? How can we begin to think about investments in the built environment as a catalyst for the broader aims of decarbonization, adaptation, and social justice at a meaningful scale?

The Green New Deal does not pretend to have all the answers, but it’s a bold and necessary start. Because it connects social change with environmental change, and because it recalls the ambitious spirit the original New Deal, the Green New Deal is the only set of ideas on the table that are scaled to the challenges we face. If realized, the Green New Deal would revolutionize our systems of production and transform how and where we live. If realized, the Green New Deal would enable us to not only adapt to climate change, but to also mitigate its root causes.

But right now, the Green New Deal is embryonic, represented only in the most abstract set of goals outlined in H.R. 109. Its outline of a sustainable future needs to be filled in. It needs to be developed, debated and designed. To that end, this Atlas for a Green New Deal brings together a vast and disparate array of information in the form of maps and datascapes; tools to help us understand the spatial consequences of climate change—not so that we may be frightened by them, but so that we may be mobilized around a response to them.

An Introduction to Our Atlas for the Green New Deal

Certainty is on the tip of every climate activist, scholar, and writer’s tongue these days. We are certain we have only until 2030 to rapidly decarbonize the economy. We are certain that even if we do manage to meet this ambitious goal, sea levels will still rise another foot or so—demanding that our cities do the same, or that their people are relocated, out of our shifting shoreline. We are certain things are getting worse—promised, even, that they are somehow worse than we’ve imagined.

We are certain, in part, because we have so many damn models telling us so many damn things about our now certain damnation. There are physical models of the Earth’s systems, showing how we can expect our oceanic and atmospheric forces to change under the various emissions-based scenarios developed by the IPCC. There are projective models of who might be displaced—and where they might go—as sea levels rise, temperatures increase, and the climate refugee crisis becomes impossible to ignore. There are predictive models of how various forms of climate adaptation might perform, often as instruments of flood risk mitigation. There are financial and economic models of how we might pay for a set of planetary transformations like decarbonization and adaptation. Increasingly, there are also simulation models of what it might mean to geoengineer the Earth’s systems, either by spraying sulfates into the stratosphere or by rapidly deploying negative-emissions technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere. We have seen the future, and it works—so long as the assumptions in our models are set just right.

Each model brings a new degree of precision to the lucidity of our climate imaginary. They help us make sense of which outcomes are probable, which are possible, and they imply their own ideas about desirability in the process. And that winnowing of potential futures and choices can bring with it a sense of heightened certainty about how, when, and where things might unfold on a planet devoured by capitalism.

Though these models are an important tool for understanding how the future could or should be made manifest, they are not the only tool—even if we (designers, journalists, broader publics beyond the climate science community) tend to treat them as such. We do this despite the vast degrees of uncertainty in even our most basic physical models, to say nothing of our inability to model and imagine the socio-political, technical, and economics forces that will, ultimately, determine how much warming, mitigation, and adaptation we live with.

The climate crisis is existential, replete with uncertainty, happening all around us, all the time. Though we have mapped it exhaustively here, maps alone cannot tell this story. We need more tools—for making sense of the climate crisis, for envisioning alternative futures that foreground what we might gain instead only what we’ll lose, and for stoking public imaginations and actions in ways that models, at least on their own, cannot. To paraphrase David Wallace-Wells’ apocalyptic book The Uninhabitable Earth, it is, we promise, better than you think. Or at least it can be.

This need for a more pluralistic approach to how we navigate and respond to the climate crisis is where The 2100 Project aims to land. Though physical, simulation, and socio-technic models of the future will always be an important part of this conversation, our intervention with this project is not about building precise models a future world reshaped by varying degrees of carbon emission. Rather, it is about backcasting—a method of scenario modeling that begins by developing an ideal outcome or future, and then works its way back from there—as a way of understanding a different set of potential futures; ones that may or may not be captured in these models.

As the authors of the first installment in The 2100 Project, An Atlas for the Green New Deal, we became interested in assembling this phase of research for three primary reasons. The first relatesto the idea of backcasting as it pertains to the principal historical analogs of the Green New Deal: FDR’s New Deal and JFK’s Moonshot. We remain convinced that the window for massive, national-scale action on climate will open again soon, and we aim to use this project as a vehicle for generating new research into how those transformations might unfold. The second rationale for constructing this atlas is tied to the paucity of spatial expertise and imagination within the current Green New Deal movement. Though it has necessarily been led by organizers, economists, policy wonks, and others, the Green New Deal would transform how and where we live—it would revolutionize our buildings, landscapes, and public works in ways that have yet to be conceived. The Green New Deal is the biggest design and environmental idea in a century. As faculty and graduate students in a world-renowned school of design, we feel an obligation to engage in the Green New Deal along these lines. Finally, we felt compelled to assemble this atlas and to launch The 2100 Project in part because no one else has put anything like it together—all of the spatialized climate, land, and people-related models of the future in one place, synthesized and tightly curated, contextualized and coherently packaged together as an Atlas for the Green New Deal. And we also felt compelled to use this project as a way to critique the notion of precision and certainty embedded in these models by representing them through pixelated maps.After all, the future is fuzzy. Our models should be too.

It's important to begin this work where the Green New Dealers have directed us: to the last two eras of true, national-scale mobilization around a set of shared goals and ideals. The New Deal is often viewed as a single, coherent organizing framework developed by FDR and his advisers at the start of his administration—as a set of boxes to be checked as they rolled through the 1930s.But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the improvisational and experimental nature of FDR’s Presidency. As Richard Hofstadter notes, “The New Deal will never be understood by anyone who looks for a single thread of policy, a far-reaching, far-seeing plan. It was a series of improvisations, many adopted very suddenly, many [of them] contradictory. Such unity as it had was in political strategy, not economics.” It was a grand experiment in social democracy, one in which new agencies were created, new authorities and powers promulgated, and new financial resources marshaled to tackle the overlapping ecological, economic, and political crises of the day: the Dust Bowl and its forced migration of over 3 million farmers from the Midwest, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism across the globe. Some initiatives, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, proved wildly successful and continue operating today. Other experimentsfailed or outlived their usefulness, folding during the mobilization around World War II. Some of these, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, which put more than 500,000 young people to work on soil restoration and other public lands projects at its peak, the Works Progress Administration, which built hundreds of airports, bridges, college campuses, and other public works projects, and the Resettlement Administration, which oversaw the Dust Bowl migration and built a series of pilot “greenbelt” towns, helped make the New Deal a built environment revolution in the United States.

In the American experience, this proved to be the last period in which strong, national planning—one that included an expansive design bureaucracy—would be realized. Much of the rest of the 20th and 21st century was left up to the market. Within this context, newly elected President John F. Kennedy traveled to Houston in May 1961 to deliver his Moonshot speech at Rice University. In it, he implored Americans to “go to The Moon…not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” That speech—and the various machinations that followed—set a wildly ambitious national goal without any clue how it might be achieved. Quite literally none of the technology necessary to make the trip existed in 1961. So, at JFK’s direction, the federal government issued research and procurement contracts and reorganized NASA around the aim of getting to The Moon by the end of the decade, unsure of how—or if—it might ever truly be possible.

Of course, we did make it to The Moon. One of the many spoils from that trip was the image of the Blue Marble—of the Earth as an object, the first photographic evidence of the planet’s physical boundaries. It would prove to be an iconic image, arriving in a milieu defined by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Ian McHarg’s Design With Nature (1969), and perhaps the largest and most sustained mass mobilization of the environmental movement in American history—a movement that proved so strong, it compelled Richard Nixon to usher in what became known as the Environmental Decade, when the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and CERCLA (the Superfund Act) were passed.

It's in this space where the Green New Deal seems likely to land—in the massive expansion of government as a force for good in the everyday lives of most people akin to that of the New Deal, and in the marshalling of public procurement and standards to drive the private sector towards a shared set of goals. It requires that we know the destination, but not the path; it requires a bit of backcasting.

This brings us back to the genesis of The 2100 Project. We are convinced that a window willsoon open again, forced ajar by young climate activists, which allows for the mass mobilization of resources called for by the Green New Deal. And when it does, we hope to find ourselves in a better position than we did in 2009 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, also known as the Obama Stimulus) passed. ARRA required that investments in the built environment be tied to shovel-ready projects—the kind of string that sounds reasonable, until you realize that the only shovel-ready projects at the time were those that had been sitting on the books for years, unbuilt largely because they were bad ideas that no one wanted. We don’t expect to develop all, or really any, of the projects a Green New Deal might build instead on our own. But we do hope that this project can serve as a platform for others to do so.

We also feel compelled to note that while we would have much preferred to build an atlas like this comprised of more than the conterminous United States—one that could include Hawaii and Alaska, as well as Puerto Rico and the other territories—the spatial and climate data available to us simply did not permit it. As we continue to expand The 2100 Project, we’re eager to find partners who can help us close these gaps and develop a richer, fuller understanding how climate change will transform all of the places we live.

This Atlas for a Green New Deal is a product of our own milieu—the overlapping crises we find ourselves living through in 2019. For New Dealers, it was the environmental crisis of the Dust Bowl, the economic crisis of the Great Depression, and the political crisis of fascism that forced the window for bold, national action open. For Green New Dealers, we find ourselves living through the ecological crisis of climate change, the economic crisis of capitalism, and the resurgent political crisis of rising fascism across the globe, even here in the United States.

We’re constantly told to go slow, think small, and tweak systems rather than transform them; that we are doomed, and all that’s left to decide is the extent of our collective destruction. But the Green New Deal offers something more—a chance to go fast, to think big, and to transform the structures that gave us climate change and inequality; and an opportunity to imagine a world in which things are, we promise, better than you think.


Land Use

The conterminous US occupies 3,119,884.69 square miles or 1,996,726,202 acres. It is typically categorized by eight land use types: open space, urban areas, agriculture lands, grassland and pasture lands, forests, wetlands, shrub lands, and other areas. This map illustrates the nation’s land use composition as of 2017, with clear patterns of settlement and use at the 98,765 acre pixel scale. Along the East and West Coasts open spaces, forests, and urban areas are prevelant. In the Midwest and Great Plains, agriculture, grasslands, and pasture lands predominate. Much of the nation’s wetlands are concentrated in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast megaregions.

These eight land use divisions are defined as follows: Open Space (conservation and recreation land, town forests, parkways, agricultural land, aquifer and watershed protection land, cemeteries, and forest), Urban Areas (urbanized areas (UAs) of 50,000 or more people and urban clusters (UCs) of at least 2500 and less than 50,000 people), Agriculture (land on which crops are grown for food or fiber, including corn, soybeans, winter wheat, other hay/non alfalfa, alfalfa, spring wheat, cotton, sorghum, rice, barley, durum wheat, dry beans, oats, canola, peas, almonds, sunflower, peanuts, grapes, sugarbeets, sod/grass seed, sugarcane, oranges, potatoes, lentils, rye, millet, apples, walnuts, pecans, triticale, tomatoes, flaxseed, sweet corn, pistachios, aquaculture, pop or orn corn, cherries, clover/ wildflowers, blueberries, safflower, onions, citrus, herbs, tobacco, Christmas trees, sweet potatoes, mustard, cucumbers, carrots, hops, lettuce, watermelons, pears, peaches, strawberries, plums, pumpkins, greens, squash, olives, cantaloupes, cabbage, pomegranates, garlic, peppers, broccoli, caneberries, buckwheat, switchgrass, cranberries, speltz, mint, radishes, honeydew melons, cauliflower, asparagus, vetch, rape seed, turnips, celery, nectarines, camelina, eggplants, gourds, chick peas, apricots, and others), Grassland and Pasture (Grassland: “Areas dominated by grammanoid or herbaceous vegetation, generally greater than 80% of total vegetation. These areas are not subject to intensive management such as tilling, but can be utilized for grazing,” Pasture: “Areas of grasses, legumes, or grass-legume mixtures planted for livestock grazing or the production of seed or hay crops, typically on a perennial cycle. Pasture/hay vegetation accounts for greater than 20 percent of total vegetation”), Forest (land with a trees greater than 5 meters tall and with a cover density of 20% or more),Wetland (areas where the water table is at, near, or above the land surface for part of most years), Shrubland (areas with woody vegetation), and Other.1

[1] U.S. Geological Survey. "NLCD 2011 Land Cover (2011 Edition, Amended 2014) - National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA) Land Use Land Cover." Multi-Resolution Land Cover Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium. October 10, 2014. Accessed July 22, 2019.

Land Use Breakdown

This map reconfigures the US land use breakdown by proportion of total land use: 3% open space (federal, state, and local), 24% shrubland, 17% grasslands and pastures, 17% agriculture, 5% wetlands, 27% forests, 2% urban areas, and 5% other land uses. Over one-third of the US is devoted to agriculture and grassland and pasture, much of it used to feed human and non-human animals. Urban areas make up the smallest total land use by area but hold the most humans.

Urban Areas

Until the 1920 census, most Americans lived in rural areas. Since then, the number of Americans in urban areas has steadily increased both in total number and by percentage of population. As of 2016, 82% of Americans live in urban areas; that is roughly 270 million people.2 These urban areas comprise 2.4% of US land area, with densities ranging from 27,781.2 people per square mile in New York City to 1000 people per square mile, the minimum density for an urban designation.3 In some areas (especially the Southwest) annexation is driving urban population growth, not an increase in density or in-migration. Most urban areas are coastal and river port cities, continuing the historic pattern of human settlement along major bodies of water for ease of travel and trade, while a minority US population lives in rural areas disconnected from historical trade routes and outposts.

Rural areas are those populations, housing, and territories not included within an urban area. Approximately 18% of Americans live in rural areas; those who do are more likely to own their home, live in their state of birth, and have served in the military than their urban counterparts. They are also older and less likely to live in poverty or have an advanced degree.4 Since 1910, the rural population has remained stable, while the urban population has nearly quadrupled.

The urban/rural classification groups suburbia into the urban area category. The justifications for this collapsing of urbanity into a single measure range from ease of data collection for the Census Bureau to socio-economic theories of regional economic development that tie commuting patterns and wealth together. While these rationales are justified, they leave us with a highly imperfect measure of the character, quality, and function of the built environment in the US. Many of these areas are treated as urban by the Census Bureau and the various federal agencies that break funding and financing programs into coarse definitions of urban and rural, but they fail to capture the vast suburbanized landscape in this country and limit our ability to truly see or comprehend the spatial dimensions of most of the country. By some measures, suburbia is the most populated settlement type in the US and the Census Bureau does not recognize it.

[2] "Urban Population (% of Total Population)." World Bank Group. Accessed July 12, 2019. United Nations Population Division. World Urbanization Prospects: 2018 Revision.

[3] Cohen, Darryl T., Geoffrey W. Hatchard, and Steven G. Wilson. Population Trends in Incorporated Places: 2003 to 2013. US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau, 2015..

[4] US Census Bureau. "New Census Data Show Differences Between Urban and Rural Populations." American Community Survey: 2015. December 30, 2016. Accessed July 12, 2019.

Parks, Forests, and Wetlands

Of US land area, 6.8% is forest cover, 5.3% wetlands, and 3.3% parks and open space. Forests are almost equal parts deciduous and evergreen (12.7% and 12.6% respectively), with 0.1%, or about 121,600 acres, of Christmas trees.8 Many of the National Parks are located near or in forests and the borders between the two can be hard to distinguish. The National Parks System is comprised of 419 sites covering 84 million acres that range in size from 13.2 million acres (the wilds of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve) to .002 acres (the Revolutionary-era house of the Thaddeus Kosciusko National Memorial).9 Many of the large “wilderness” spaces were created out of the forced removal of the indigenous populations who resided on the lands; in some cases entire tribes who had acted as stewards of the landscape for centuries were forcibly removed to establish the public lands and western homesteading programs.10

Wetlands too have been decimated since colonization. It is estimated that the US has lost over half of its pre- Revolution wetlands.11 One-third of the total lost wetland area is in the Great Lakes megaregion, with much of the land drained and converted to agriculture.12 A significant portion of the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast megaregions remain wetlands, while the eastern half of the US is predominantly forested and the western half large parks. The middle of the county has few parks, forests, or wetlands. For instance, less than 1% of Kansas’s land area is owned by the state or federal government. Only 1.04% of Iowa’s and 1.6% of Nebraska’s land areas are publicly owned.13

[8] NASS, USDA. "USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer." CropScape - NASS CDL Program. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed November 2, 2017.

[9] “Frequently Asked Questions (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service. Accessed April 9, 2018.

[10] Kantor, Isaac. "Ethnic Cleansing and America's Creation of National Parks." Pub. Land & Resources L. Rev. 28 (2007): 41.

[11] Dahl, Thomas E. "Wetlands loss since the revolution." National Wetlands Newsletter 12, no. 6 (1990).

[12] Dahl, Thomas E. "Wetlands loss since the revolution." National Wetlands Newsletter 12, no. 6 (1990).


[13] All data taken from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which aggregates and analyzes data from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Defense. Summary tables available at

Agricultural Land, Grassland, + Shrubland

Agriculture accounts for 16.7% of US land use. It’s largest subsets are wheat and corn cultivation at 5.3% and 5.0% respectively, followed by soybean and cotton at 3.3% and 1.7% of 2015 agriculture land use. Grasslands and pastures make up slightly more of land use at 16.9%.5 Both agriculture and grasslands and pastures are concentrated in the middle of the country on the most productive soils. Shrubland is mainly present in the western third of the country, beyond the productive agriculture area and grasslands. Though agriculture makes up nearly 17% of land use, farms contributed only $136.7 billion (about 1%) to GDP in 2015.6

Like other major industrial sectors, American agriculture is moving through a period of hyper-consolidation. In 2001, farms of 1,000 acres or more represented just 5.6 % of all farms in the U.S., but they controlled 46.8% of all cropland in the system. In 2011, the proportion of large farms remained steady (5.6%), but they now controlled 53.7% of all cropland in the system.7 This is linked to the rise of hobby farms—small plots producing little in the way of commercially viable agricultural products. Their recent popularity has helped stabilize the number of small farms as measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But an ever-increasing share of the nation’s food production is derived from large industrial farms. This consolidation and corporatization of agriculture has doubled the nation’s food production since World War II and made it the largest exporter of food in the world.

[5] NASS, USDA. "USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer." CropScape - NASS CDL Program. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed November 2, 2017.

[6] Glaser, L., and R. M. Morrison. "Ag and food sectors and the economy." USDA ERS - Ag and Food Sectors and the Economy. October 18, 2017. Accessed April 9, 2018.

[7] Koerth-Baker, Maggie. “Big Farms Are Getting Bigger and Most Small Farms Aren’t Really Farms at All.” Fivethirtyeight. Accessed September 8, 2019.

Water Sources

Most of the US’ water sources by area are underground aquifers. The lone exception to this is found in the Great Lakes megaregion, a region named for its water richness. The Great Lakes are the largest system of surface freshwater on Earth by area, so large that the system behaves like a sea.14 The lakes cover 60,320,000 acres and contain about 21% of the world’s surface fresh water. They supply more than 30 million Americans with drinking water, a number that is likely to grow through both increasing and in-migrating populations and challenges to the Great Lakes Compact, the agreement which regulates the management and use of water within the Great Lakes Basin.15

The Great Lakes form the northern border of the Mississippi River Basin, the largest major drainage basin of the ten that make up the conterminous US.16 68% of Americans, mostly urban, rely on these surface waters for drinking water, with more rural populations relying on groundwater.17

Groundwater not only provides drinking water for rural populations, it supplies over 50 billion gallons to agriculture each day, one of the major factors of groundwater decline and depletion in the US.18 Of total annual withdrawal, agriculture accounts for 36.7% of usage, while public and self-supplied consumption requires 13.1% of all withdrawals.19 The single greatest withdrawal in the US (41.3% of total) is for thermoelectric power.20 Water withdrawn for thermoelectric helps cool the power-producing equipment, producing steam that spins turbines and is used by nearly every power generating facility in the country. If the water is not cooled before it is returned, the heat of the liquid can cause environmental damage to the system.21

Aquifer depletion is becoming a major issue in the US, with impacts that range from land subsidence to deterioration of water quality. One particularly vulnerable aquifer is the High Plains or Ogallala Aquifer which provides the water for 30% of all irrigation in the US.22 If current withdrawal practices continue, this aquifer will be depleted by 2040.23

[14] "The Great Lakes." EPA. May 15, 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[15] "Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council." Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council. Accessed July 29, 2019.

[16] "U.S. River Basins." National Climatic Data Center. Accessed August 17, 2019.

[17] "Water Sources | Public Water Systems | Drinking Water | Healthy Water | CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[18] “Groundwater Decline and Depletion.” U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[19] "U.S. Water Supply and Distribution Factsheet." U.S. Water Supply and Distribution Factsheet | Center for Sustainable Systems. 2018. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[20] "U.S. Water Supply and Distribution Factsheet." U.S. Water Supply and Distribution Factsheet | Center for Sustainable Systems. 2018. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[21] "Thermoelectric Power Water Use." Thermoelectric Power Water Use. U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[22] Frankel, Jeremy. "Crisis on the High Plains: The Loss of America's Largest Aquifer – the Ogallala." University of Denver Water Law Review at the Sturm College of Law. May 17, 2018. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[23] Steward, David R., Paul J. Bruss, Xiaoying Yang, Scott A. Staggenborg, Stephen M. Welch, and Michael D. Apley. "Tapping Unsustainable Groundwater Stores for Agricultural Production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, Projections to 2110." PNAS. August 21, 2013. Accessed July 12, 2019.


Soil Types

The productivity index of soil uses “taxonomic features or properties that tend to be associated with natural low or high soil productivity, to rank soils.”24 The following features were considered: organic matter content, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and clay minerology. Of all the soil in the US, only 35% is considered the most productive, characterized by high organic matter content, high CEC, and the presence and activity of clay. While the most productive soil is present throughout the U.S., it is concentrated in the upper Great Lakes megaregion and some areas of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. One of the most productive soils is in the grassland ecosystem between the Front Range and Great Lakes megaregions, the Mollisols. Mollisols are highly fertile soils with high levels of organic inputs from deep grass roots. These soils account for approximately 21.5% of US soils but only 7% of ice-free land globally.25

Productivity does not account for soil contamination, which is a major issue in US soil health. The EPA created the Brownfields program to identify and treat highly contaminated sites, those properties of which “the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse...may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” 26 It is estimated that there are 425,000 brownfields sites in the US, occupying 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites.27

[24] Schaetzl, R.J., F.J. Krist Jr., and B.A. Miller. 2012. A taxonomically based ordinal estimate of soil productivity for landscape-scale analyses. Soil Science. 177:in press.

[25] "Mollisols." Mollisols - Department of Soil and Water Systems - College of Agricultural and Life Sciences - University of Idaho. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[26] "Overview of EPA's Brownfields Program." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[27] "Brownfields FAQs." HUD Exchange. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Accessed July 12, 2019.


Crop Types

The US’ four most common subsets of crops are wheat, corn, soybeans, and cotton. Soybean cultivation constitutes 20% of US agricultural area and is widespread throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast. Wheat, the most common crop in the US by land area, is predominant in the western half of the country. There is a clear relationship between the relative productivity of American soils and the crops planted with highly productive soils producing a greater number and variety of crops annually.

Since 1935, the number of farms has decreased but the size of farms has increased, a phenomenon known as the consolidation of US agriculture.28 As of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, of the 900 million acres of farmland on 2.04 million farms (of which the average farm size is 441 acres), farms of 1-9 acres account for 13.4% and 2000 or more acres account for 4%.29 This is a significant increase from 1987 when 8.8% of farms were 1-9 acres and 3% 2000 or more.

[28] "Farming and Farm Income." USDA ERS - Farming and Farm Income. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[29] U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Table 1. Historical Highlights: 2017 and Earlier Census Years.” 2017 Census of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

Crop Types - Wheat

Wheat is the most broadly grown crop in the US by acreage. Though present throughout the US, wheat is often grown at low intensities. In 65% of counties, less than 25% of crops by acreage are wheat. In 3.2% of counties, 60% or more of crops by acreage are wheat, which is the highest concentration of the four crops examined. The US exports about half of its wheat crop, providing 15% of total global wheat exports.30

[30] "Overview." USDA ERS - Wheat. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

Crop Types - Corn

Corn is grown most intensely near the Great Lakes megaregion and in eastern parts of the US. While 41% of US counties had 5% or less of their cropland acreage dedicated to corn, it is the nation’s second-largest crop by acreage. Corn is not grown as intensely as wheat; the highest-producing counties often report not much more than 45% corn by acreage. Most counties devote less than 25% of their cropland to corn, though Iowa and Illinois account for about 33% of all US-grown corn.31 87% of irrigated corn is “grown in regions with high or extremely high water stress” according to WRI standards.32

More than 90 million acres are planted with corn, of which the majority is used for livestock feed. The remaining corn is processed into food and industrial products including sweeteners and biofuels, with ethanol production alone accounting for nearly 40% of corn use.33 Between 20-30% of the annual corn crop is exported.34

[31] "Feedgrains Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Feedgrains Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[32] Barton, Brooke, and Sarah Elizabeth Clark. Water & Climate Risks Facing U.S. Corn Production How Companies & Investors Can Cultivate Sustainability. Report. June 2014. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[33] "Feedgrains Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Feedgrains Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.


[34] "Feedgrains Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Feedgrains Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

Crop Types - Soybeans

Introduced to the US in the 20th century, soybeans are farmed for both food and oil—soy accounts for 90% of US oilseed production.35 One of the more concentrated crops, in nearly 50% of counties less than 5% of crops by acreage are soybeans. Soybeans have about the same maximal concentration as corn, topping out at around 45% of crop acreage, though in only 9.2% of counties. The production of soybeans is concentrated near the Great Lakes megaregion where, in 2018, more than 81% of production by acreage occurred.36 The planting of soybean is increasing in the US, partially due to the 50-50 planting of both soy and corn on the same fields.

[35] "Oil Crops Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Oil Crops Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[36] "Oil Crops Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Oil Crops Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

Crop Types - Cotton

Cotton is a highly used textile fiber; it accounts for nearly 25% of total world fiber use and is the most profitable non-food crop in the world.37 Cotton is the most concentrated of the four common US crops, with only 18% of counties having 1% or more of their crop acreage dedicated to cotton and only 4.6% of counties dedicating more than 30% of their crop acreage to cotton. These high-cotton counties are primarily concentrated in the southern US, where cotton is grown due to environmental and socio-political histories: suitable conditions for farming and the legacy of the plantation system and slavery.

One of the major issues facing cotton production is the availability of the water necessary to grow the plant: it takes 10,000 liters of water to produce 2.2 pounds of cotton (the amount needed for a t-shirt).38 In comparison, it takes about 1500 liters of water to produce 2.2 pounds of wheat.39 Cotton is grown in one of the hottest and water scarce regions of the U.S.

[37] "Overview." USDA ERS - Cotton & Wool. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[38] "Cotton." WWF. Accessed July 12, 2019.

[39] Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not. Report. Institution of Mechanical Engineers. January 2013. Accessed July 19, 2019.


Meat Production

Livestock and poultry makeup over half of the US’ agricultural production.40 While all meats require large amounts of land and water and emit greenhouse gases, beef production is one of the worst offenders. Beef needs approximately seven times more land and emits seven times more greenhouse gases than chicken production.41 Per pound, beef requires 1799 gallons of water, pork 575, and chicken 470.42 In 2013, Americans consumed 254.2 pounds of meat per year on average, two and a half times the global average of 94.8 pounds.43

Meat production is widespread throughout the US. Beef production is the most land intensive and occurs in 40% of counties. Pork and chicken production are much less land intensive and occur in only 8% and 4% of counties, respectively.

In total, the population of meat animals has increased, linked with the rise of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or factory farms.44 Coincident with concentration is a decrease in animal health and increase in mental distress in humans.45 A major factor in decreasing health for both humans and the environment is animal waste, which is kept in lagoons or sprayed on neighboring fields, carrying with it not just a horrifying odor but pathogens heavy metals and anti-biotic resistant bacteria.46 There is a negative correlation between density of animals and environmental health, as seen in the water, air, and land pollution reports that accompany accounts of feedlots in the US.47

[40] "Animal Products." USDA ERS - Animal Products. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[41] Waite, Richard. "2018 Will See High Meat Consumption in the U.S., but the American Diet Is Shifting." World Resources Institute. September 26, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[42] "Why Meat Eats Resources." Water Footprint Calculator. December 14, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[43] Ritchie, Hannah, and Max Roser. "Meat and Seafood Production & Consumption." Our World in Data. August 25, 2017. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[44] “1 Overview of U.S. Livestock, Poultry, and Aquaculture Production in 2010 and Statistics on Major Commodities.” Demographics 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed 21 July 2019.

[45] “Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impacts on Communities.”

[46] Nicole, Wendee. "CAFOs and environmental justice: The case of North Carolina." (2013): a182-a189.

[47] “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Accessed 21 July 2019.

Meat Production - Beef

The US has the largest fed-cattle industry in the world and is the largest producer of beef for both domestic and export use, yet is a net beef importer.48 The industry can be divided into two sectors: cow-calf (which can be coupled with dairy) and cattle feeding. Cow-calf operations are located on range and pasture lands not appropriate for crop production. Cattle are widespread throughout the US, often at low densities, with feedlots concentrated west of the Great Lakes megaregion.49 In 82.9% of counties, there are fewer than 20 cattle per 100 acres. Less than 1% of counties have more than 50 cattle per 100 acres. However, the county with the highest concentration of cattle, San Bernadino County, CA, has 195.5 cattle per 100 acres. The consolidation seen in agriculture is also occurring in the beef sector where fewer, larger, and more intensive operations are the trend.

[48] "Cattle & Beef." USDA ERS - Cattle & Beef. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[49] "Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Meat Production - Pork

The US is the third-largest producer and consumer of pork, following China and the European Union.50 US p There are three sectors to pork production, most of which involve some type of confinement: farrow-to-finish (or birth to slaughter), feeder pig producers (pigs raised and sold), and feeder pig finishers (pigs bought, grown, and slaughtered).51 Pork production is fairly minimal in most US counties; nearly 50% of counties have only 0-1 hogs or pigs per 100 acres. Only 4% of counties have more than 50 pigs per 100 acres. However, where hog production is prevalent, pigs are at high densities. Hog operations are concentrated in the Great Lakes megaregion and North Carolina. In Duplin County, NC, for example, there are 750 hogs per 100 acres on average.

[50] “Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade.” U.S. Department of Agriculture. 12 October 2016. Accessed 21 July 2019.

[51] "Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Meat Production - Chicken

The US poultry industry is the “world's largest producer and second largest exporter of poultry meat and a major egg producer.”52 Production expanded in the 2008-2017 period due to an increase in both domestic and foreign demand.53 Domestic demand has displaced a significant amount of beef and pork consumption—more poultry is consumed than beef or pork, but not total red meat.54 Since 1990 on average 63.1 pounds of chicken were consumed per American versus 52.9 pounds of beef.55

With a growing population and an increasing demand in the US, more chickens are being bred and held in captivity than ever before. Chicken farming is one of the most concentrated meat production industries in the US, running in a band across the American South. The vast majority of US counties have little to no chicken farming, with 73.8% of counties having fewer than 1 chicken per 100 acres or not reporting data. Only 10.2% of counties have more than 5,000 chickens per 100 acres, and 1.2% of counties have over 50,000 chickens per 100 acres. The highest chicken density is in Gilmer County, GA, where there are over 275,000 chickens per 100 acres.

[52] "Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[53] "Poultry & Eggs." USDA ERS - Poultry & Eggs. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[54] "Poultry Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019. ational

[55] "Poultry Sector at a Glance." USDA ERS - Sector at a Glance. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.


The conterminous US can be divided into 10 eco-regions, areas where “ecosystems (and the type, quality, and quantity of environmental resources) are generally similar.”56 The largest eco-region by land area is the Eastern Temperate Forests, which comprises 25.6% of total US land. The Great Plains ecosystems is the second largest at 22.8% of the US territory. North American Deserts, which comprises a large area of the interior West, is the third- largest eco-region by land area, covering 14.4% of the land. All other eco-regions comprise less than 10% of total US land.

[56] "Food Availability and Consumption." USDA ERS - Food Availability and Consumption. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Big Conservation Efforts

Conservation practices have shifted over the past few decades from a focus on fortress-like patches of “protected lands” to interconnected corridors that improve resiliency and enable species migrations. In partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group is working on global connectivity efforts, calling for “Connectivity conservation [to link] landscapes/seascapes, reducing fragmentation and enabling migratory flows essential to a functioning and resilient system.”57

In the US, there are 18 large-scale conservation efforts that overlap across the county (and across North American national borders) to improve connectivity on the nearly half of the country that these projects occupy. The projects vary in size from 334,518 to 277,400,000 hectares with boundaries that include protected, semi-protected, other protected, and not protected lands. The project with the highest percent of protected lands is the Proposed Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park with 24.6% protected, the project with the least is the Northern Great Plains at 0.6%.58 On average, only 8.8% of each project’s land area is protected with 84.7% of land having no protection. Eight projects cross the Canadian-American border and three the Mexico-American, with one project spanning the entirety of North America from Alaska to Mexico: the Western Wildway Network Priority Corridor Project, the largest conservation effort at 277,400,000 hectares.

[57] "Ecoregions." EPA. March 27, 2018. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[58] "Vision and Mission." Conservation Corridor. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Protected Areas

Protected areas are “dedicated to the preservation of biological diversity and to other natural, recreational and cultural uses, managed for these purposes through legal or other effective means.”59 In the US, there are two main categories based on management: publicly protected lands (which include state, local government, American Indian lands, and regional agency special district management) and privately protected lands. Just under 25% of American land is considered protected. Most of these protected areas are concentrated in the west as the East Coast was settled by those interested in private ownership and the federal government acquired and sold off the majority of the middle continent.60

[59] Globescapes. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[60] "Gap Analysis Project." Protected Areas | U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Ecological Hotspots

A further 17% of American lands are ecological hotpots or “Earth’s most biologically rich—yet threatened— terrestrial regions” with little overlap between protected lands and hotspots. 61 To qualify as hotspots, an area must meet two criteria: firstly, it must contain 1500 endemic vascular plants and secondly, after fulfilling the first criteria, have lost 70% or more of its primary vegetation.62 Primary vegetation is habitat to most species, especially endemics, which makes it a good marker for total biodiversity.

American hotspots include the California Floristic Province and the North American Coastal Plain, both coastal regions. The California Floristic Province contains a wide variety of ecosystems, perhaps most famously the Sequoia Tree Ecosystem, home to the endangered giant sequoia and endangered coastal redwood. Other threatened species inhabit this hotspot, including the endangered giant kangaroo, the desert slender salamander, and the critically endangered California condor.63 This hotspot’s main threats come from human activities and development, not insignificantly from agricultural expansion, with only 25% of the original vegetation remaining.64 Across the country, the North American Coastal Plain is one of the newest hotspots, listed in 2016. This hotspot is a fire- dependent region, primarily facing threats from fire suppression (which inhibits the cycle of the native vegetation), deforestation for agriculture and infrastructure development. Climate change is also now adding to the vulnerability of plants and animals in the hotspots.65

[61] Sowards, Adam M. "Public Lands and Their Administration." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. October 19, 2017. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[62] "Biodiversity Hotspots Defined." Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[63] Myers, Norman, Russell A. Mittermeier, Cristina G. Mittermeier, Gustavo AB Da Fonseca, and Jennifer Kent. "Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities." Nature 403, no. 6772 (2000): 853.

[64] "California Floristic Province." Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[65] "California Floristic Province - Threats." Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Environmental Risks

The environmental risks for the US vary significantly across the land and climate of the country. Some are products of oceanic and atmospheric forces, like flooding and tornadoes. Others are geological, like earthquakes—though there is mounting evidence that moderate earthquake risks can be linked to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and natural gas exploration. The Atlantic Coast is at high risk for hurricanes, some flooding, and moderate earthquakes. The Great Lakes megaregion holds a significant portion of the surface water in the Unites States and is mainly at risk of flooding. The Midwest is mostly affected by tornados and west of the Rockies faces significant risks due to earthquakes, wildfires, and floods. The Pacific Coast is at high risk of earthquakes due to the presence of the San Andreas Fault, which is overdue for a significant earthquake.66 All of these environmental risks increase with climate change, in which the predicted intensity of storm events will lead to increased wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and tornados.67

[66] "North American Coastal Plain - Threats." Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[67] "Back to the Future on the San Andreas Fault." U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Severe Disasters

The US has seen several major disasters in the past century. With climate change, the number, frequency, and intensity of these events is likely to increase. This map is an illustrative, incomplete accounting of their impacts.

Native Tribe Lands

The entirety of the US was once tribal land, large territories held by indigenous peoples. These territories had no boundaries as understood in a colonial map, which delineates national/state boundaries and explicit territory edges.

Instead, it contained overlapping arrangements of nomadic peoples that changed overtime via treaties, migration, and conflicts.68 Both the east and west coast were home to many smaller tribal territories while the middle and south of the country were larger territories held by single tribes.

[68] “How Can Climate Change Affect Natural Disasters?” U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed July 21, 2019.

American Tribe Distribution

The relationship between the Unites States of America and Indigenous Tribes has been filled with displacement, genocide, and violence, much of it borne out in the relationship between the state and land. Once occupying the entirety of the continent, tribal members now are sovereign holders of 6.2% of the conterminous country on federally recognized tribal lands (also called reservations, rancherias, pueblos, and Indian Colonies).69 The smallest area of land is the Swinomish off-reservation trust land at 0.14 acres, the largest the Navajo Nation Reservation at 14,249,169 acres. There is a clear pattern to the size and number of reservations related to the progression of settler- colonialism, with greater displacement and theft occurring on the East Coast into the middle of the country. West of the Great Lakes megaregion, larger areas of land have been set aside as tribal lands. Treaty rights have historically governed this partitioning, but the rights are selectively applied.70

There are 326 reservations in the US, the holdings of single and shared tribal oversight. Tribal sovereignty recognizes the right of indigenous tribes to govern themselves, acting as domestic dependent nations.71 The special relationship between the US government and the Tribal government was established through 375 treaties, laws, and policies that shaped where and how tribal members could live in exchange for resettlement and self-government.72

While there are 573 recognized tribes at the federal level, 63 are unrecognized at the federal level but recognized by a state (only 11 states allow for this process), and 359 (as of 2013) are unrecognized by the government but have petitioned for recognition.73 A further unknown number have never or have never been able to petition. As of the 2010 census, 5.2 million people in the US identify as American Indian and Alaska Native either alone or in combination.74 Of this population, 22% live on reservations.75

[69] "" Native. Accessed August 20, 2019.

[70] "TIGER/Line Shapefile, 2017, Nation, U.S., Current American Indian Tribal Subdivision (AITS) National." June 20, 2019. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[71] “BROKEN PROMISES: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans.” United States Commission on Civil Rights. December 20, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

[72] "Native American Policies." U.S. Department of Justice. October 18, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.

[73] “BROKEN PROMISES: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans.” United States Commission on Civil Rights. December 20, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

[74] "Federal and State Recognized Tribes." List of Federal and State Recognized Tribes. The National Conference of State Legislatures. November 2018. Accessed July 22, 2019.; “List of Petitioners by State (as of November 2013.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs. November 2013. Accessed July 22, 2019.

[75] Norris, Tina, Paula L. Vines, and Elizabeth M. Hoeffel. The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau, 2012.


Internet Connectivity

In the US in 2013 the average global download speed was 18.2 Mbps.76 While the majority of the country had rates near the average speed, there are notable exceptions in Washington (relatively high speeds outside of Seattle, the tech hub, at 85.5 Mbps), the entire state of Montana which had some of the slowest internet in the country, and northeastern Arizona which had download speeds at 1.5 Mbps. There is an obvious privileging of urban and high-

income areas, granting greater speeds to the more concentrated and wealthier populations. This is due in part to the monopolistic and loosely-regulated tele-communications industry in the US. In 2019, some rural areas were still completely disconnected from the broadband network.

[76] Fischer-Baum, Reuben. "A Map of Who's Got the Best (And Worst) Internet Connections in America." Gizmodo. September 09, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2019.

National Income Distribution

American income distribution is roughly correlated with population size. In 2016, the highest income areas, in which median household income was between $85,000 and $126,000, were clustered along the Northeast Corridor, California and Pacific Northwest tech hubs, and interior cities. Low income areas, in which median household income was less than $30,000, were most clustered in the Southeast, Southwest, and interior Northwest. The median annual income of an American household was $57,617, with the official poverty rate at 12.7%.77

[77] “Median Household Income in the United States.” U.S. Census Bureau. September 14, 2017. Accessed April 2019.; “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016.” U.S. Census Bureau. September 12, 2017. Accessed July 23, 2019.


There is a clear divide between the coasts and urban areas (Democrat support) and rural areas (Republican support). In 2016, the most recent presidential cycle, 46.09% of Americans supported Democrats while 48.18% voted for the Republican candidate according to the presidential popular vote. Areas with the highest and lowest incomes tend to vote Democrat, while the midrange income of middle America tends to vote Republican.

Energy Infrastructure

Transmissions lines connect the US, forming corridors that pulse east-west, north-south, and at all degrees across the continent. Energy plants are present across the US, but there is a massive concentration on the east coast, diffusing until it reaches the Great Lakes-Texas Triangle megaregions west of which there is minimal infrastructure until California.

The modern grid’s construction began in 1882, when the Pearl Street Station in Manhattan came online as the first central power plant in the US. Over the course of the next 130 years, the generation, transmission, and storage facilities that comprise the nation’s grid developed through two major thrusts: the war of the currents, in which Thomas Edison (direct current) and Nikolai Tesla (alternating current) competed for government contracts and private equity during the late 19th-century to invest in their various electricity transmission technology, which Edison and the direct current won; and the Private Electricity Company Boom of the early 20th century that saw the proliferation of small, private, and unregulated electric utilities all over the nation. These utilities and generation/ transmission systems came under stronger federal regulation in 1978 and have remained largely unchanged since then.78

[78] Department of Energy. “The War of the Currents: AC vs. DC Power.” Accessed September 8, 2019. Available at:

Militarized Infrastructure

As of 2015, the US government had 71 air force bases inside the conterminous US and 36 outside, 66 army bases inside and 59 outside, 38 Coast Guard Military Bases, 10 Joint Operations Bases outside the US, 19 marine corps bases inside and 18 outside, and 75 navy bases inside and 21 outside.79 These installations occupy 2.3% of US land, a larger percentage than the land area of urban areas at 2%. As would be expected from installations of this nature, they line the coasts and exist along major roads. There are few bases on either the Canadian or Mexico borders.

[79] "US Military Bases - Air Force Bases, Army Bases, Navy Bases, Marine." Military Bases. Accessed July 23, 2019.

Ports + Airports

Due to historical settlement patterns and water-based transportation most major cities in the US have a port. These cities sit on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, with a concentration on the Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, and along the Mississippi River. In the 20th century air travel has boomed and as such according to the Federal Aviation Authority, there are now 3,321 existing airports in the US. Of those, 380 are considered primary airports.80

[80] “Report to Congress: National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) 2019-2023.” U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Aviation Administration. September 26, 2018.

Colleges + Universities

There are more than 4,000 universities in the US. These can be categorized into 3 main types; historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), public and land grant institutions, and private colleges and universities.

HBCUs are institutions that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve the black community of the US in response to the segregation of higher education. There are currently 101 HBCUs offering doctoral, master, and bachelor level education cross the US. They are concentrated in the Southeast where segregation was most prevalent.

Land grant institutions were a response to industrialization pressures in the late 19th century. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 granted federally controlled land to the states to establish and endow land grant colleges, which would “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics...teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts.”81 Now mostly public universities, these schools have broadened their curriculums over time but tend to still have strong connections to either agriculture or mechanics. A subset of land grant institutions are Tribal College and Universities which were authorized by the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, with a focus on teaching, community outreach, and research in Indigenous communities.

The only land grant institutions in the top ten institutions by endowment size are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an endowment of $13,474,743,000 (sixth place), and Texas A&M University with an endowment of $9,754,202,0$Z00 (eighth place). Harvard University has the largest endowment at $37,615,545,000 with Yale University distant second at $25,542,983,000. Private universities make up the remainder of the list.

[81] 7 U.S.C. § 304


Settlement patterns of the second half of the 20th century have ‘sprawled’ so far that a new unit of urbanization has been created. Known as megaregions, these enlarged polycentric zones of urbanization are defined by complex and interrelated relationships in several of the following categories: environmental systems and topography, infrastructure systems, economic linkages, settlement patterns and land use, and shared culture and history.82 Richard Florida has also posited that megaregions can be defined by mapping contiguous bands of electric light when the planet is viewed from space at night.

There are 11 such recognized megaregions in the US; Cascadia, Northern California, Southern California,Arizona Sun Corridor, Front Range Urban Corridor, Texas Triangle, Gulf Coast, Florida, Piedmont Atlantic, Great Lakes, North-East Megaregion.

[82] Megaregions - America 2050. Regional Plan Association. Accessed July 23, 2019.

History of Big Ideas

This map shows a range of visionary, large scale planning initiatives, some realized, some not. Variously inspiring and cautionary, these big ideas serve as speculative precedents for current debates about national scale planning and investment in relation to climate change and a Green New Deal.

County In-Migration Patterns

Sea level rise is expected to radically reshape the physical and social geography of the coastal US. These maps draw on models developed by Mathew Hauer, a geographer at the University of Georgia. He is the first scholar to assess the number of structures—and thus people—we can expect to be inundated by sea level rise over the course of the 21st century.83 He is also the first scholar to attempt to model where those who are displaced might move.

These maps are visualizations of his work. They show major trends in in-migration show movement to coastal cities and the gulf coast. East coast in-migration is occurring in the following major counties: Bronx and Kings in New York, Orange, Palm Beach, and Hilllsborough in Florida, East Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Harris and Travis county in Texas, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz-San Francisco in California, and Clark in Nevada.

These regions will be the primary receiving zones for climate refugees moving within the US. They do not incorporate the expected influx of foreign climate refugees.84

[83] Hauer, Mathew, Evans, Jason, and Mishra, Deepak. 2016. “Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States.” Nature Climate Change, 6, 691-695. Accessed September 8, 2019.

[84] Hauer, Mathew. 2017. “Migration induced by sea level rise could reshape the US population landscape.” Nature Climate Change, 7, pp. 321-325. Accessed September 8, 2019.

County Out-Migration Patterns

In-migration and out-migration patterns suggest that Americans are moving from cities to cities, crisscrossing the nation. Drawing on Mathew Hauer’s work, these maps show that most Americans who moved within the last decade did so from the east, west, and gulf coasts, with the Seattle area a major source of out-migration. The major east coast out-migration counties are Nassau in New York, Ocean in New Jersey, Charleston in South Carolina, Broward, Miami-Dade, Lee, and Pinellas in Florida, and Jefferson Parish in New Orleans. West Coast counties include King in Washington and San Mateo and Orange in California. Many of the states with large out-migration populations have large in-migration populations, but the populations are not moving within the state. See San Mateo, Orange, and Los Angeles in California, Pinellas, Lee, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Palm Beach, and Hilllsborough in Florida, Nassau, Bronx, and Kings in New York, and Jefferson and East Baton Rouge in Louisiana. Many of the out- migration counties are coastal ones already facing challenges from sea level rise.85

[85] Hauer, Mathew, Evans, Jason, and Mishra, Deepak. 2016. “Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States.” Nature Climate Change, 6, 691-695. Accessed September 8, 2019.

[85] Hauer, Mathew. 2017. “Migration induced by sea level rise could reshape the US population landscape.” Nature Climate Change, 7, pp. 321-325. Accessed September 8, 2019.

One American's Eco-footprint

An ecological footprint “measures the demand on [how fast we consume resources and generate waste] and supply of [how fast nature can absorb our waste and generate new resources] nature.”86 All things considered, one American requires 21.2 acres of land to support their lifestyle at today’s average standards. This includes 14.9 acres needed for carbon sequestration, 2.9 acres of cropland, 2.0 acres of forest land, 0.7 acres of grazing land, 0.3 acres of fishing grounds, and 0.2 acres of built up or developed land. UShowever only , meaning each American draws on another 11.9 acres globally.

[86] "Ecological Footprint." Global Footprint Network. Accessed July 24, 2019.

Eco-footprint to World Average

The average eco-footprint across the world is 6.9 acres of land to sustain one person. Since the average global bio- availability is only 4.2 acres it can be concluded that humanity is living well beyond the Earth’s capacity to supply the necessary resources and absorb the waste related to contemporary demand.

Eco-capacity of the Planet

The US land mass would need to be 2.3 times its current size to provide the resources needed to support its current population and the country would need to be 3 times its current size to support the projected 2060 population of 417 million (2060) people living at today’s standards.

Eco-footprint by Land

The US land mass would need to be 2.3 times its current size to provide the resources needed to support its current population and the country would need to be 3 times its current size to support the projected 2060 population of 417 million (2060) people living at today’s standards.

100 Million More Americans

Adding 100 Million More Americans

The population in the US is projected to grow from 319 million in 2014 to 417 million in 2060. The U.S. will add roughly 98 million people in 46 years.87 The US has gone through similar periods of population growth: the post- World War II baby boom resulted in a near-doubling of the population from 132 million in 1940 to 240 million in 1990.88 The population then grew another 77 million between 1990 and 2015 to 319 million. Foreign born persons provided 13% of the population in 2014 (43 million) and are expected to comprise 19% (78.2 million) of the population by 2060.

[87] Colby, Sandra L., and Jennifer M. Ortman. "Projections of the Size and Composition of the US Population: 2014 to 2060. Population Estimates and Projections. Current Population Reports. P25-1143." US Census Bureau (2015).

[88] “A Look at the 1940 Census.” US Population - 1940 to 2010. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed April 09, 2018.

Historical Policy Frameworks for Population Growth

During the post WWII era, the US passed various pieces of legislation to address the nation’s rapid growth. These included significant ecological, infrastructural, and social reforms. A similar series of policy decisions will be needed to address the increased population, changing demographic makeup, economic restructuring and climate change impacts. The 50th anniversary of many of these legislative achievements will lapse in the 2020s, if they have not already.

Changing Demographics

Fertility rates are predicted to decline over this time period (2014-2060). This is projected to result in a rising share of foreign-born people in the US.89 Also, more Americans will be older than ever before as boomers and their off- spring age. The percent of population 65 and older will increase from 15% to 24% between 2014 to 2060 for both native and foreign-born. The portion of the population of “working age” (18-64) will decrease for both native and foreign-born, with an overall percentage of population decreasing from 62% to 57%.90 Overall, the population is projected to be more diverse, with Non-Hispanic whites projected to decrease from 62.2% (a majority) of the population in 2014 to 43.6% in 2060.91 Hispanics will increase from 17.4% to 28.6% of the population, black Americans will increase as a percentage from 12.4 to 13%, Asians from 5.2 to 9.1%. Those who identify as two or more races will more than double from 2.8% of the population to 5.7%.

[89] Colby, Sandra L., and Jennifer M. Ortman. "Projections of the Size and Composition of the US Population: 2014 to 2060. Population Estimates and Projections. Current Population Reports. P25-1143." US Census Bureau (2015).

[90] Colby, Sandra L., and Jennifer M. Ortman. "Projections of the Size and Composition of the US Population: 2014 to 2060. Population Estimates and Projections. Current Population Reports. P25-1143." US Census Bureau (2015).
[91] Colby, Sandra L., and Jennifer M. Ortman. "Projections of the Size and Composition of the US Population: 2014 to 2060. Population Estimates and Projections. Current Population Reports. P25-1143." US Census Bureau (2015).

Climate + Urbanization Projections

Land Development and Population Growth

Adding 100 million new people to the U.S. by 2060 will require massive expansions of and investments in communities and, increasingly, in densifying cities. Most demographers expect an increasing share of these people to live in major American cities like New York, Chicago, and Phoenix. Assuming the next 100 million were to live in high-density cities such as New York City then based on New York’s 2010 population of 8,175,133 these 100 million new Americans will require 12 such cities, about one new New York constructed every 3.5 years. Alternatively, if they were to live at medium-density such as in the case of a city like Chicago, then based on Chicago’s 2010 population of 2,695,598 100 million new Americans will require 36 new Chicago’s to be built by 2060, about one every 14 months. And finally, if the next 100 million choose to live in a low-density suburban configuration such as Phoenix, which had a population of 1,445,632 in 2010, then 68 new cities would be required, approximately one new Phoenix every 7 months.92

[92] U.S. Census Bureau. “Phoenix, AZ.” American FactFinder - Results. October 05, 2010. Accessed April 09, 2018.

Road Construction and Population Growth

The US averages around 27 lane miles of road for every 1,000 people.93 If that average is maintained as 100 million more people arrive in the US, it would require 2,668,080 miles of new road constructed at a cost of at least $120 billion.94 This amount of road construction would be the equivalent road length of 476 round trips from New York City to Los Angeles.

[93] “Highway Statistics Series.” U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration. March 26, 2018. Accessed April 10, 2018.­stracts/2015/.

[94] “Paving Cost/mile.” Ohio Department of Transportation. Accessed April 10, 2018. https://

Energy Consumption

Americans use approximately four times the average annual global level of energy consumption. In 2017, the average American used 88.21 MWh of energy with the global average for energy consumption 21.69 MWh.95 Of this consumption, 80% came from fossil fuels, 9% from nuclear electric power, and 11% from renewable energy.96 Of the renewable energy, only 3% is considered viable for future expansion: wind and solar. Much of the rest comes from hydroelectricity.

100 million new Americans will need 8,645,008 GWh of energy per year if today’s consumption patterns are maintained. Since American energy consumption per capita has been increasing (nearly tripling since the 1950’s), then it seems likely that current patterns of consumption will continue, if not increase.97 Few, if any, proposals for creating a clean energy grid for the US incorporate these population projections in their various buildout scenarios.

[95] “How Much Energy Does a Person Use in a Year?” FAQ, Independent Statistics and Analysis, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Accessed April 10, 2018.

[96] "Figure 2f From: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic Revision of Rochefortia Sw. (Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: E7720. Https://" doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f.

[97] “Table 1.3 Primary Energy Consumption by Source.” U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review. June 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Wind Potential

Wind production is most viable offshore (the Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, and Great Lakes) with some possibility of wind in the scrub lands of the mid-country.98 Pockets of good potential wind energy also occur along the Appalachian Mountains and west of the Rockies.99

[98] “United States – Wind Resource Map.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy. May 6, 2009. Accessed August 19, 2019.

[99] “2016 Offshore Wind Energy Resource Assessment for the United States.” Walt Musial, Donna Heimiller, Philipp Beiter, George Scott, and Caroline Draxl, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy. September 20016. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Wind Arrays

A typical 2MWh wind turbine will produce around 4,700 MWh/year.100 To produce the energy needed for 100 million new Americans, the US would need 1,834,337 such wind turbines.

[100] “State Area Measurements and Internal Point Coordinates.” U.S. Census Bureau Geography. December 01, 2012. April 10,. 2018.

Wind Power on Land

Turbines that can take advantage of wind from any direction require 82 acres of land on average per turbine.101 Meeting the energy consumption needs of 100 million new Americans would therefore require 150,415,603 acres of wind farms, or nearly the same amount of land as the state of Texas.102 The total population in 2060 will need 627,233,065 acres of wind turbines, 31% of the total land area of the conterminous US. This does not include the massive storage capacity that would need to be built to provide power when wind energy is not available.

[101] “State Area Measurements and Internal Point Coordinates.” U.S. Census Bureau Geography. December 01, 2012. April 10,. 2018.

[102] “State Area Measurements and Internal Point Coordinates.” U.S. Census Bureau Geography. December 01, 2012. April 10,. 2018.

Solar Potential

To maximize energy output, solar farms must be placed where there are long, sunny days. In the US, the areas with the most hours of sunlight a day are along the US-Mexico border, with decreasing sun-time moving inward.103 While the high sun-land area exists to install millions of solar arrays, the land is sparsely populated by humans but rich in biodiversity. Challenges to solar production have been made based on this richness and the value placed on unobstructed views of the desert, diminishing the perceived economic and cultural viability of solar. Another limitation to solar is the availability of the materials necessary to construct solar panels, the rare metals that have limited global availability, must be mined, and cause their own environmental problems.104

[103] “Global Horizontal Solar Irradiance.” Billy J. Roberts, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy. February 22, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

[104] “Metal Demand for Renewable Electricity Generation in the Netherlands.” Pieter van Exter, Sybren Bosch, Branco Schipper, Dr. Benjamin Sprecher, and Dr Rene Kleijn. Springtij Forum. 2018. Accessed Accessed August 19, 2019.

Solar Array

26,190,30,857 solar panels of standard commercial dimension (77” x 39”) are needed to generate energy for the next 100 million Americans. This does not include the massive storage capacity that would need to be built to provide power when sunlight is not available.

Solar Power on Land

The Topaz Solar Farm in California, one of the country’s largest, has a capacity of 550 megawatts and occupies 4,700 acres.105 To produce the power needed for 100 million new Americans, 36,666,431 acres of solar farms, or over 7,800 Topaz Solar Farms would need to be constructed, or nearly the same size as the state of Iowa (36,014,720 acres).106 The total 2060 population at current consumption patterns would need 152,899,017 acres of solar farms, 7.6% of the total land area of the conterminous US.

[105] “Just the Facts: Topaz Solar Farm.” BHE Renewables. February 2018. Accessed April 12, 2018.https://www.

[106] “State Area Measurements and Internal Point Coordinates.” U.S. Census Bureau Geography. December 01, 2012. April 10,. 2018.

Energy Storage

One Tesla Powerpack has a storage capacity of 210 kWh or 0.21 MWh.107 To store the average annual power usage of 100 million new Americans, 4,116,670,476 Powerpacks would need to be deployed. There is considerable uncertainty about this figure. Most energy systems scholars agree that a clean or renewable energy grid powered by wind and solar would require a massive overbuild in its storage capacity to offset the volatility in wind and solar power generation. But it is not clear the extent to which the grid would need to be overbuilt. Estimates range from as low as 15% of the current grid’s size to more than 40%.

[107] "Powerpack - Commercial & Utility Energy Storage Solutions: Tesla." Tesla, Inc. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Water Resources on Land

One American consumers 88 gallons of water per day.108 The next 100 million new Americans would need 8.8 billion gallons of water per day based on current daily consumption patterns.

[108] Maupin, Molly A., Joan F. Kenny, Susan S. Hutson, John K. Lovelace, Nancy L. Barber, and Kristin S. Linsey. Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010. No. 1405. US Geological Survey, 2014.

Water Consumption

8.8 billion gallons of water is equivalent to 13,333 Olympic-size pools, which would take up 4,133,000 acres. This is larger than Connecticut (3,547,731 acres).

Irrigation Consumption

In the US, a total of 115 billion gallons of water per day is used for irrigation. 109 At that rate, the amount of water needed for the irrigation practices to support 100 million new Americans would be 36 billion gallons per day, the equivalent of 54,545 Olympic swimming pools. The footprint of these pools would occupy 16,909 acres.

[109] Maupin, Molly A., Joan F. Kenny, Susan S. Hutson, John K. Lovelace, Nancy L. Barber, and Kristin S. Linsey. Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010. No. 1405. US Geological Survey, 2014.

Desalination Potential

While coastal desalination is the most common form of desalination for potable water (taking in water from either the Pacific or the Atlantic), brackish groundwater may offer a less-energy intensive, and thus cheaper, alternative to ocean desalination.110 There is approximately 35 times more brackish groundwater than the annual fresh groundwater withdrawals in the US.111

Since becoming fully operational in 2015, the Claud Bud Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant has produced 50 million gallons of desalinated water per day from the Pacific Ocean on a six acre site in San Diego County.112 This energy intensive process pumps water from the ocean, removes salt through reverse osmosis, conveys the drinking water through a pipeline, and returns the waste brine to the ocean.113 While the main product of the process is the drinking water, able to support 4000,000 county residents, the waste brine is produced at 1.5:1, a significant amount of highly salinated discharge.114 Research is ongoing into the effects of both the water on re-introduction to the ocean at the outfall (it is warmer and contains potentially toxic additives) and the larger impacts of increasing ocean salinity globally.115

Providing drinking water to the next 100 million Americans would require at least 176 new desalination plants. The Carlsbad plant cost $1 billion. At that rate,, these new desalination plants would cost $176 billion dollars and require 1,056 acres for deployment.116 Because the cost of plant construction and of desalinating are high, the cost of desalinated water is current 1.8 times higher that of other source waters for California.117 As technology evolves and the cost of other source waters increases, desalinated water may become commensurate with other sources.118 However, desalination plants produce considerable waste in the form of brine and heat that can disrupt entire ecosystems.

[111] Stanton, Jennifer S., David W. Anning, Craig J. Brown, Richard B. Moore, Virginia L. McGuire, Sharon L. Qi, Alta C. Harris et al. Brackish groundwater in the United States. No. 1833. US Geological Survey, 2017.

[112] Robbins, Jim. "As Water Scarcity Increases, Desalination Plants Are on the Rise." Yale E360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. June 11, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.

[113] Peterson, Bobbi. "Desalination and Energy Consumption." Desalination and Energy Consumption | Energy Central. The Energy Collective Group. January 20, 2017. Accessed July 29, 2019.

[114] Root, Tik. "Desalination Plants Produce More Waste Brine than Thought." National Geographic. January 14, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019.

[115] Root, Tik. "Desalination Plants Produce More Waste Brine than Thought." National Geographic. January 14, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019.

[116] Bienkowski, Brian. "Desalination Is an Expensive Energy Hog, but Improvements Are on the Way." Public Radio International. May 15, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2019.

[117] Robbins, Jim. "As Water Scarcity Increases, Desalination Plants Are on the Rise." Yale E360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. June 11, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.

[118] Robbins, Jim. "As Water Scarcity Increases, Desalination Plants Are on the Rise." Yale E360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. June 11, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.

"Natural" Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration from newly planted forests (with newly planted forests better at sequestering carbon than old growth forests) is only viable in unforested areas.119 More than half of forest restoration potential is in just six countries; Russia, the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China.120 The US has the space for 254,518,543 acres of new forest without encroaching on existing urban areas or agriculture-13% of the conterminous US, equivalent to half of what is currently identified as forested.121 This acreage could sequester about 23.5 gigatons of carbon-if the US emits 5.1 billion tons of carbon a year, a total reforesting of the US would only account for 5 years of carbon emissions though the life of the forest.122

Not only is the a small percentage of carbon emissions, most carbon offset/sequestration/credit programs are ineffective and may in fact be worse as they allows people and organization to continue to emit as usual and may have a leakage effect whereby one area of land is conserved at the cost of another.123

[119] Erickson-Davis, Morgan. "Why New Forests Are Better at Sequestering Carbon Than Old Ones." Pacific Standard. February 27, 2019. Accessed August 20, 2019.

[120] Bastin, Jean-Francois, Yelena Finegold, Claude Garcia, Danilo Mollicone, Marcelo Rezende, Devin Routh, Constantin M. Zohner, and Thomas W. Crowther. "The global tree restoration potential." Science 365, no. 6448 (2019): 76-79.

[121] Bastin, Jean-Francois, Yelena Finegold, Claude Garcia, Danilo Mollicone, Marcelo Rezende, Devin Routh, Constantin M. Zohner, and Thomas W. Crowther. "The global tree restoration potential." Science 365, no. 6448 (2019): 76-79.

[122] “How Much Carbon Dioxide Does the United States and the World Emit Each Year from Energy Sources?” U.S. Geologic Survey. Accessed August 20, 2019.


[123] Song, Lisa. “An Even More Inconvenient Truth.” ProPublica. May 22, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Carbon Sequestration through Afforestation

The US emits 6,456.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents annually, per American that is 20.2 metric tons.124 If a mature tree can absorb up to 21.77 kg (48 lbs) of CO2 a year, it would take about 930 such trees to sequester the carbon emissions of one average American.125 The next 100 million people would need 93 billion new trees for carbon sequestration.

[124] "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks." Environmental Protection Agency. April 11, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019.

[125] NC State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. "Tree Facts.” Accessed June 01, 2016. 

"Natural" Carbon Sequestration on Land

Ninety-three billion trees require land on which to grow. With 3.65 m (12 ft) spacing between trees this equates to a 1,247,600 km2 or 308,288,674 acre forest, a footprint equivalent to 15% of the total land area of the conterminous US. As of the 2017, 27% of US land use was forests, for 2060 carbon sequestration this would need to increase 15% for the new 100 million Americans, while sequestering carbon for the total population of 417 million would require 62.6% of the total land of the conterminous US in addition to the current forests, or 89.6% of land area.

Climate Change Effects

Average Annual Temperature Increases

By the end of 21st century, the temperature will increase an average 9.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual average temperature in the Northwest of the US will reach to 75.3 Fahrenheit with an average 16% increase.126 The average annual temperature of Texas 1981-2010 was 65 degrees, with a summer average of 82 degrees and a winter average of 48 degrees, by projected 2080-2099 temperatures the average annual temperature will be 74 degrees with a summer average of 90 and winter average of 56 degrees. Minnesota’s 1981-2010 annual average was 42 degrees with a summer annual average of 67 degrees and a winter annual average of 13 degrees. In the 2080-2099 period the temperatures are projected to be 53 degrees annually, 78 degrees in the summer, and 25 degrees in the winter. The northern states face the highest average annual change, with Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin seeing an increase of 11 degrees. The West Coast and Gulf Coast will see the least change, still a staggering change of 6 degrees for Florida with the rest of the coasts at 8 degrees.127

[126] "Impact Map." Climate Impact Lab. Accessed July 10, 2019.


[127] "Impact Map." Climate Impact Lab. Accessed July 10, 2019.

Economic Effects of Climate Change

While the GDP is a less than ideal way of measuring overall economic health, there is not a better way of measuring. By the 2080-2099 period, more than 76% of counties in the US will be suffering from economic damage due to climate change, while 24% of counties will experience economic benefits when compared to the 1981-2010 averages. Economic damage is considered as the combined value of market and non-market damage across the agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor sectors and varies between -20% to 20% (with damages smaller than 0% indicates economic benefit).128 The losses are largest in the regions that are already poorer on average (Southern, Central, and Mid-Atlantic), increasing inequality as value transfers to the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes Region, and New England.

[128] Hsiang, Solomon, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen et al. "Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States." Science 356, no. 6345 (2017): 1362-1369.

Agriculture and Climate Change

Accounting for estimated effects of CO2 fertilization and precipitation, national yields will be reduced 9.1% to 12.1% per degree Celsius increase in global mean surface temperature.129 These calculations account for percent change in area-weighted yields for corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton. The Midwest and Southern California, where most agriculture takes place, will see a decrease of at least 50% of yields. The North and West of the country, from the Dakotas to Northern California, will see an increase of 45%.130

[129] Hsiang, Solomon, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen et al. "Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States." Science 356, no. 6345 (2017): 1362-1369.


[130] Hsiang, Solomon, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen et al. "Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States." Science 356, no. 6345 (2017): 1362-1369.

Energy Demand and Climate Change

For every one degree Celsius that the global mean surface temperature rises, electricity demand will rise roughly 5.3%. Rising demand from hot days will more than offset falling demand from cool days.131 This trend can be seen most in the South, particularly in Texas, where the increasing annual temperatures will result in a 20% increase of energy use. While nearly the entirety of the US will increase their expenditure, areas of the Cascadia, Northern California, Southern California, and Front Range megaregions and northern Maine will decrease their energy expenditure-possibly due to an increase of efficiency, decrease of cost, and warmer winters.

[131] Hsiang, Solomon, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen et al. "Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States." Science 356, no. 6345 (2017): 1362-1369.

Mortality Rates and Climate Change

This map shows the change in all-cause mortality per 100k across all age groups.132 Due to the increasing temperatures nationally, the number of heat related deaths in the south is projected to increase and the number of cold related deaths in the north is projected to decrease.

[132] Hsiang, Solomon, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen et al. "Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States." Science 356, no. 6345 (2017): 1362-1369.

Labor and Climate Change

Due to the climbing temperatures, there will be an increased risk for workers exposed to outdoor temperatures. This maps the change in labor supply of full-time-equivalent workers for high-risk jobs, showing the distribution across the US. Following the temperature gradient, Texas and the Gulf Coast states will have the highest increase in unsafe exposure at 3%, though the entirety of the continent except for pockets in Washington, California and Colorado will see an overall increase in risk.133


[133] Hsiang, Solomon, Robert Kopp, Amir Jina, James Rising, Michael Delgado, Shashank Mohan, D. J. Rasmussen et al. "Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States." Science 356, no. 6345 (2017): 1362-1369.

Coastal Economies and Climate Change

This map illustrates the levels of risk sea level rise poses along Southeast coastlines, taking into consideration the susceptibility to change and adaptation measures. The Coastal Vulnerability Index used here is based on tidal range, wave height, coastal slope, shoreline change, landform and processes, and historical rate of relative sea level rise.134

[134] USGCRP (2014). Carter, L. M., J. W. Jones, L. Berry, V. Burkett, J. F. Murley, J. Obeysekera, P. J. Schramm, and D. Wear, 2014: Ch. 17: Southeast and the Caribbean. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 396-417.

The Katrina Diaspora

Hurricane Katrina victims have filed for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from every state. The map shows the distribution and number of the 1.36 million individual assistance applications as of Sept. 23, 2005.135

[135] Ericson, Matthew, Archie Tse, and Jodi Wilgoren. "Katrina’s diaspora." NY Times (October 2) (2005).

Coastal Communities and Sea Level Rise

By the end of the 21st century as many as 13.1 million people will be displaced by sea level rise.136 On average that is 159,756 people per year and by the year 2060, 6.8 million people may be displaced. In 2017 alone, around 1 million people in the US migrated due to climate related events.137 For context, the Dust Bowl Migration of the 1930’s saw an estimated 3.5 million people migrate from the Great Plains.138

Sea Level Rise and Displacement

The population of the sea level rise migration in the US would equal 10 times the Katrina migration numbers.