Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council study quantifies labor loss, contracting GRP, and losses in tax revenue due to extreme weather events and sea level rise

The Tampa Bay area is one of the most environmentally vulnerable areas in the nation due to persistent flooding, increasing extreme weather events, and threats from sea level rise. A new study by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council shows the potential impact of climate change and sea level rise to the region’s most critical economic drivers over the next 40 years.

Taking Stock: Economic Impacts of Climate Change on the Tampa Bay Region Under a High Emission Scenario measures the region’s economic losses and damages due to the impacts of persistent flooding, extreme weather events, and threats from sea level rise. The Taking Stock study finds that unless we start to address these issues differently on a policy level the region’s economy (measured in Gross Regional Product) may underperform by 1.0% each year, by 2060, making the region less competitive, costing the region thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost income every year.

The study analyzes the impacts of climate change on the region’s socioeconomic drivers: agriculture, mortality rates, labor productivity, and energy demand. It also examines the economic costs of indirect climate-driven impact stressors on real estate values, tax revenues and local infrastructure due to sea level rise.

“With changes, we can mitigate the potential impact to our economy, the 19th largest in the nation,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

While the average annual temperature has shifted slightly, weather extremes – including heat – have become more common. The number of days with temperatures over 95 degrees in Florida is projected to increase from an average of 6.9 days in 1981-2010 to a forecasted 25.5 days by 2039. By 2060, this number could rise to a projected 52.1 days.

These extreme temperatures endanger people who work outdoors, from hotels and restaurants to manufacturing and agriculture. Weeks with 6 consecutive days of temperatures over 90 degrees see an 8% decrease in labor productivity.

Additionally, as temperatures rise, some outdoors labor markets and outdoors activities may have to shift indoors, raising the need for air conditioning and a subsequent rise in demand and prices.

Increased heat could result in a cumulative jobs loss of 15,000 per year by 2060 (.6% of all jobs), as outdoors jobs may become automated to cut down on air conditioning costs and artificial cooling. Residential energy consumers will feel the pinch, too, as the number of days cooling is needed increases.

“We should consider building design that emphasizes high energy efficiencies, and consider investing in industries where heat exposure is limited,” said Randy Deshazo, director of planning & research at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. “Workforce training and investment that explores renewables and solar opportunities could create jobs to offset job losses resulting from ‘in the field’ heat impacts.”

Extreme heat has another impact. As temperatures increase, ice melt accelerates, and thermal expansion raises ocean levels. The coastlines in the Tampa Bay region would be significantly impacted with a 3.5-foot sea level rise by 2060, with areas of Southern Pinellas, particularly downtown St. Petersburg; coastal Manatee; and southern Hillsborough counties being partially to completely inundated.

With inundation, coastal development and real estate property loss, surrounding properties could be devalued, property values and related tax revenues would be lost and infrastructure costs would increase.

Taking Stock predicts that the region may experience approximately $3 billon of private property partially or fully inundated by a 2.2-foot increase in sea level rise by 2045. By 2060, the private property lost to 3.5-foot sea level rise would reach $7.5 billion.

Property loss and inundation may place an undue hardship on the region’s ability to collect taxes for infrastructure upgrades and basic governmental services. The resulting property tax loss means a decrease in 2.7%, or $55.8 million annually by 2060 in property tax revenues.

With the decrease in tax revenues, the infrastructure needed for the region’s population may be impacted. Expenditures of $7.2 billion in infrastructure rehabilitation and upgrades will be needed to address climate-driven adaptations, but will have to occur in the face of decreasing tax revenues. Roads and pavement, potable water, and sewage are of particular concern.

“The Tampa Bay region must consider infrastructure improvements to protect from sea level rise. A hardened, walled shoreline would protect local development or real estate, but it increases the surrounding special flood zone that determines insurance premiums,” said Deshazo. “Insurance premiums will increase with more frequent flooding events, and rising premiums ultimately make homeownership even harder to afford.”

Taking Stock employs a High Emissions Scenario that follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) model to provide consistency across regional reporting. The High Emissions Scenario extrapolates worse cases to illustrate greater climate impacts from human contributions, socioeconomic and environmental costs, and mitigation possibilities. Read the full report.