the FUTURE OF CALIFORNIA

The state is a proving ground for the effects of the climate emergency. What we do about it will help define the future of climate mitigation.

By Evan Anderson

The United States' massive economy can be deceptive in its concentration. Look at a map of the nation and you see vast spreads of riverine valley systems crisscrossed by mountains, offering the misleading impression that the country may have such a massive economy simply because it is so big.

While this is surely true in part, sources of US GDP are also quite concentrated. The biggest 10 of the country's 50 state economies were responsible for more than one-half of GDP in 2019. The top five state economies in 2019 were responsible for something over 40% of US GDP. It's helpful to look at pre-pandemic numbers to get a sense of, hopefully, where we will be once again in the coming years.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in California. With roughly 12% of of the country's population, the state had a 2019 GDP of over USD 3 trillion, slightly less than twice that of Texas, the next-biggest state economy. That placed the state of California as the world's fifth-biggest economy in that year.

Now, imminent effects of climate change are fast becoming the greatest challenge the state's administrators have ever seen. Given its normally enviable positioning, with thousands of miles of coastline and millions of acres of arable farmland, key advantages are about to become liabilities. The question of whether and how these issues can be mitigated is not just one of California's welfare or that of the United States; it's a question of global prosperity. If a wealthy region with a significant piece of the global economy under its supervision cannot navigate the difficulties of a shifting climate, less capable and equally vulnerable regions will surely fare far worse.

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