It's easy to think that climate change is a problem for another country. It's not. Experts suggest that at some point in the very near future, every American will be affected, whether through floods, heatwaves, or hurricanes. Already the effects are beginning to be felt. Heatwaves are getting longer, rainfall is getting heavier, and hurricanes are getting more ferocious. No state will remain completely unchanged, but some are at greater risk of population displacement and serious disaster than others. Some of that comes down to natural risk factors, but much of it lies in the measures that have already been taken in preparation. California, for example, faces a considerable risk of heat, drought, and flooding, but has implemented numerous measures to prevent disaster. Texas, which faces a similarly consequential threat, has done very little to prepare, meaning the results of climate change will be more keenly felt. Considering both threat and preparedness, the states in the U.S. most at risk of climate change disasters are...
As EPA notes, Kentucky’s climate is already changing. Over the past century, heavy rainfall events have increased by 20%, with annual precipitation levels increasing by 5 percent overall. Unfortunately, the average temperature has also risen, resulting in increased evaporation, drier soil, and a decreased amount of water running into rivers. Droughts are therefore set to increase and become more severe. The flash flooding that has already resulted in deaths and property destruction in certain areas of the state is also likely to increase in frequency.
According to SafeHome.org, Arkansas has a high risk of inland flooding, driven by the increased rainfall the state has experienced over the past couple of decades. Storm damage, reduced crop yields, and livestock depletion are all likely, but like the rest of the county's most at-risk states, very little has been done in terms of the preparation measures that could help lessen the impact.
Like much of the south, Mississippi is at a high risk of climate change disaster, partly because of its geological position, and partly because of its lack of readiness. Weather.com has issued the state an 'F' grade for the measures it's put in place to protect against climate change, with the result that floods, drought, and increasing temperatures are likely to have a devastating impact on both its human population and environment. Already, the consequences are starting to be felt: so far, temperatures haven't risen, but soils have become drier, the sea level is rising an inch every 7 years (one of the most rapid increases in any coastal area), rainfall has increased, with more rain now falling in heavier bursts over shorter periods, and tropical storms have become more intense.
Texas and California are both vulnerable to climate change, with increased drought and extreme heat elevating the risk of wildfire and agricultural disaster. But as Matt Fitzpatrick, associate professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science tells Newsweek, while California has worked hard to prepare for climate change, Texas had done comparatively little, with the result that the impact of coastal flooding, drought and extreme heat on public health, the livestock population, and agriculture will be more devastating.
Nevada's always been hot, but it's getting hotter with each passing year. Over the past few decades, summers have been getting warmer at a faster rate, nighttime temperatures aren't falling like they used to, and even winters aren't getting as cold as they once did. The end result is an uncertain future, especially if the state continues to take a hit-and-miss approach to the preventive measures that could help reduce the cost to human health.
Over the past 100 years, the average temperature in Ohio has increased by over a degree. Precipitation has increased by 37% in the past fifty years alone. Yet despite the warning bells, the state isn't doing a great deal to change things. It's now the fourth-largest producer of global warming emissions in the US., while the measures it's put in place to reduce the potential consequences of its changing climate are far from sufficient. While certain local governments have adopted an adaptation plan, it's yet to adopt one of a statewide level. Unfortunately, the consequences of that omission could prove catastrophic.
The effects of climate change are already being felt in Montana. Droughts are becoming more severe, the number of wildfires is increasing, and heat waves are becoming more frequent and more intense. As the problems intensify, the state is likely to experience water shortages, reduced crop yields, and poorer air quality. Over the past 70 years, the effects of climate change in the state have already added 20 days onto the allergy season. The biggest threat, however, is the effect that reduced summer stream flows will have on the concentration of pollutants in its waters - as Montana is a head water state, the consequences of any changes to its ecosystem will reverberate far beyond state lines.
Alabama is, like most of the Deep South, at serious risk from climate change. Extreme precipitation is projected for the coming decades, as are higher temperatures and increased threats of flood and drought. Unfortunately, the state is doing little to ward of the risk. In addition to introducing very few significant legislative measures for clean energy in recent years, it's even repealed certain measures that were already in place.
Over the past century, Missouri has warmed up by nearly a degree. Floods are becoming more frequent and heatwaves are getting longer and more intense. If it continues to progress in the same way, its temperatures are likely to be in line with Arizona's by the end of the century, resulting in a devastating impact on its agriculture and ecosystem.
The effects of climate change on South Dakota will vary by region. The eastern part of the state is likely to suffer an increased risk of flooding, while the western part will become more susceptible to droughts. Either way, the impact on South Dakota's infrastructure, environment, agriculture, and tourism industry will be significant. Over the past century, changes have already begun to be felt, with the average temperature rising by over a degree. Annual precipitation is increasing, and heavy rainstorms are becoming more frequent. As the temperatures continue to rise, so will the threat to human health.
Written by Dana Hanson
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