Socio-economic impacts of climate change on rural United States

  • Pankaj Lal
  • Janaki R. R. Alavalapati
  • Evan D. Mercer

DOI: 10.1007/s11027-011-9295-9

Cite this article as:
Lal, P., Alavalapati, J.R.R. & Mercer, E.D. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (2011) 16: 819. doi:10.1007/s11027-011-9295-9


Directly or indirectly, positively or negatively, climate change will affect all sectors and regions of the United States. The impacts, however, will not be homogenous across regions, sectors, population groups or time. The literature specifically related to how climate change will affect rural communities, their resilience, and adaptive capacity in the United States (U.S.) is scarce. This article bridges this knowledge gap through an extensive review of the current state of knowledge to make inferences about the rural communities vulnerability to climate change based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios. Our analysis shows that rural communities tend to be more vulnerable than their urban counterparts due to factors such as demography, occupations, earnings, literacy, poverty incidence, and dependency on government funds. Climate change impacts on rural communities differs across regions and economic sectors; some will likely benefit while others lose. Rural communities engaged in agricultural and forest related activities in the Northeast might benefit, while those in the Southwest and Southeast could face additional water stress and increased energy cost respectively. Developing adaptation and mitigation policy options geared towards reducing climatic vulnerability of rural communities is warranted. A set of regional and local studies is needed to delineate climate change impacts across rural and urban communities, and to develop appropriate policies to mitigate these impacts. Integrating research across disciplines, strengthening research-policy linkages, integrating ecosystem services while undertaking resource valuation, and expanding alternative energy sources, might also enhance coping capacity of rural communities in face of future climate change.


Climate change Nonmetro Vulnerability Coping capacity Climate change adaptation Indigenous community 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pankaj Lal
    • 1
  • Janaki R. R. Alavalapati
    • 2
  • Evan D. Mercer
    • 3
  1. 1.Visiting Scholar, 305 Cheatham Hall, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest Resources and Environmental ConservationBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.United States Forest Service Forestry Sciences LaboratoryResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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