No, I don’t mean that people are still driving SUVs and going on plane trips; the tragedy of the commons means that it’s perfectly rational under many circumstances for individuals to continue to use a resource even if it’s potentially better for everybody to stop using it. I mean that Americans aren’t moving or settling in places which will be particularly advantaged by climate change in the next few decades.
Since I think water resources are an underestimated long-term environmental issue and because I think climate change is a real if sometimes overestimated set of independent dangers, I think it’s a mistake to move so much of the American population away from the Great Lakes (World’s Greatest Supply of Freshwater) and into the drought-and-hurricane-and-insect-borne-diseases belt further South. It’s true that the Rust Belt and the rural Northeast have had economic problems that coastal cities and the South haven’t had, but this is as much an effect as a cause of population loss, both because of reduced aggregate demand in places that lose population and because places that lose population are probably experiencing negative selection for human capital and experience atrophied skills and worsened social outcomes for those who remain– for example, counties with population loss from 2000 to 2005 had larger jumps in overdoses from 2005 to 2015:
Obviously, I don’t think it’s the US Government’s responsibility to ensure that nowhere in the US loses population or that people never move to drought-stricken or hurricane-prone areas- though California’s huge population growth from immigration and increasing water woes are somehow almost never discussed at the same time, nor the growth of the Florida immigrant population and the risks from sea-level rise. But the costs of climate change don’t all point in the direction of global action and global coordination, which is likely to be partial and inconsistent no matter who is president, but much more pointedly towards how we manage ecological risks and the distribution of the US population within the country.