Nav: Home

Population aging to create pockets of climate vulnerability in the US

October 11, 2019

Population aging projections across the US show a divide between cities and rural areas, which could lead to pockets of vulnerability to climate change.

Rural parts of the US are aging more rapidly than urban areas, which could lead to greater vulnerability to climate change in those areas, according to new IIASA research.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, provides new spatially explicit projections of the US population age structure over the 21st century under five socioeconomic scenarios developed for climate change research - the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways.

"The question we were trying to answer in this research, was whether by simply assuming the same age distribution for all of the US would be sort of 'good enough' or if that would get the picture quite wrong because counties across the country do indeed vary a lot by their age structure and are therefore exposed to climate risks to different degrees," says IIASA researcher Erich Striessnig, who led the study. "Once that question was answered, we could go on to look into what past spatial shifts in age-structure would imply for the future distribution of aging and thus climate vulnerability across the US."

The study, which drew on 40 years of previous demographic data to build a model for future population aging, finds the most drastic population aging in thinly-populated counties in the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains. Meanwhile, cities and surrounding counties, especially in California, the Northeast, and mid-Atlantic, maintain a younger population age structure with a lower proportion in the most vulnerable 70+ age group.

This is a shift compared to historical trends, the researchers say. Until recently, aging in the US was relatively similar across neighboring counties, with the major differences in population structure between the South and Northeast. During the second half of the 20th century, however, the US population became much more mobile, which has led to an increased migration of young people out of rural areas and into cities.

The researchers say that this analysis is important for understanding climate change vulnerability. US climate change impacts will also vary regionally, with northern regions of the US expected to see the largest increases in the intensity of heatwaves, while chronic, long-duration drought will become increasingly likely in the Southwest. Combining societal projections with projections of environmental hazards such as heat waves, droughts, or floods can yield improved estimates of potential impacts on the most vulnerable segments of society with the potential for improving the rigor of intervention efforts and lowering their cost.

"The subnational breakdown of future assessments is becoming increasingly important, particularly in trying to predict future vulnerability to climate change," says Striessnig.
-end-
This project was partly funded by a grant from the Austrian Fulbright Program and carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

Reference

Striessnig E, Gao J, O'Neill B, Jiang L. 2019. Empirically-based spatial projections of U.S. population age structure consistent with the shared socioeconomic pathways. Environmental Research Letters DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab4a3a [pure.iiasa.ac.at/16089]

Contacts:

Researcher contact

Erich Striessnig
Research Scholar
World Population Program
Tel: +43 2236 807 519
striess@iiasa.ac.at

Press Officer

Ansa Heyl
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 574
Mob: +43 676 83 807 574
heyl@iiasa.ac.at

About IIASA:

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policymakers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by prestigious research funding agencies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. http://www.iiasa.ac.at

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.