Five US states where climate change could be disastrous

^ Advertisement ^

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events around the world. One US group has given the 50 states a report card, ranking the risk of potential disasters and long-term dangerous changes.

Most US states are well-prepared for current natural disasters, but across the country, states have done little to factor in how climate change will increase or change risks – from wildfire, extreme heat, inland and coastal flooding and drought.

“Many of these states haven’t even assessed their vulnerability,” with climate change explicitly in mind, says Richard Wiles, senior vice president of Climate Central, a climate change research group. The organisation developed a “report card” of climate change resilience for each state with the help of ICF international, a consulting firm.

Future planning often involves more difficult infrastructure changes, Wiles says, like moving roads at serious risk of being underwater in the future.

But very few states incorporate this into their long-term planning documents, which often set where money will be invested.

“These climate threats aren’t sneaking up on anybody,” Wiles says.

The response from states has been mixed. In a press conference on Friday, a collection of Miami-area counties said they agreed with their state’s overall grade, but said the report ignored the work of the state’s water management districts as well as a compact of south Florida counties working to adapt to higher sea levels, the Sun Sentinel reported.

A home is seen surrounded by flood water caused by the combination of the lunar orbit which caused seasonal high tides and what many believe is the rising sea levels due to climate change in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

“One of the challenges of doing a report card on climate preparedness is that states are likely to be doing additional things that can be put into the climate change adaptation bucket, but are not being described that way,” says Erika Spanger-Siegfried of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate and Energy programme.

“We need to be having conversations about climate risk,” she says. “I think [a report card] has the ability to advance the conversation – especially if it’s done periodically.”

Climate Central gave five states failing grades. The analysis of the changing threats is based on a projected global temperature rise if no major action is taken to limit carbon emissions. For state actions, researchers combined published policies and programmes with interviews with state employees working on these issues.