The 20 Worst U.S. Cities for Climate Change
No matter where you stand on climate change, the world is changing, and the United States is no exception. The EPA reports that many cities, states, and regions have recorded changes in their rainfall, which has led to more droughts, heavy downpours, and flooding.
Keep reading to understand why these cities make the list of the worst U.S. cities for climate change.
Scientific Research Indicates Big Changes Coming to the U.S. Due to Climate Change
Recent studies done by Emory University show that the “Corn Belt” of the U.S. is heading towards climate change that will require a change in agricultural practices. The study reports that climate change may result in “…the Corn Belt of the upper Midwest becoming unsuitable to the cultivation of corn by 2100.”
Another study completed by North Carolina State University indicates that “…the inventory of trees used for timber in the continental United States could decline by as much as 23% by 2100”. The overall impact of this timber shortage has the potential to impact every U.S. city, especially where timber is currently big business.
The science and research behind climate change is both thought-provoking and alarming. Whatever you call this change, it deserves serious consideration.
Here are the 20 worst cities in the U.S. for climate change:
20. Houston, TX
You might have noticed Texas has had some significant weather events over the last few years. The region is becoming increasingly dry, and the residents suffer severe heat waves. Add some tornados to the mix, and you have a dangerous combination of events.
When heat and humidity climb, the use of air conditioners puts a high demand on the city’s power grid. And the potential for wildfires increases when you’ve got extreme dryness.
The American Lung Association lists Houston as the 8th worst city for ozone pollution. It also landed at the 22nd spot on their worst cities for particle pollution throughout the year.
19. Jacksonville, FL
It’s impossible to ignore that Florida is changing, and not necessarily for the better. Increased heat, dry stretches, flooding, and even wildfires affect the climate landscape in and around this city.
Hurricane events are increasing in frequency and intensity, impacting where it makes landfall and even further inland.
18. Seattle, WA
Historically known for its mild climate, this city is experiencing rising temperatures. According to the Chicago Tribune, the city is expected to have more days with temperatures over 90 degrees in the coming years. Rising heat in a city that hasn’t relied on its power grid to stay cool can be a problem.
Seattle has also seen sea levels rise over the past 100 years. The city is expected to have the sea level rise another 10 inches by midway through this century.
Seattle also has a place on the American Lung Association’s list of short-term particle pollution, impacting the air quality throughout the year. Anyone with respiratory challenges will find that the air quality will likely worsen over time.
17. Savannah, GA
Heat is the main problem facing Savannah due to climate change. According to ClimateCheck.com, Savannah typically reached temperatures into the mid-90s about seven days yearly.
Yet the heat is on the rise in the southern metropolis. In fact, an estimated 38 days of extreme heat (mid-90s or above) is predicted for the city by midway through this century.
Floods are also anticipated to increase over time. Savannah has only had a single flood every 100 years but is expected to have flooding occur at least once per year soon.
16. Stamford, CT
Historically, the local weather has occasionally been intense, but nothing that the people living there couldn’t handle. But the frequency and intensity of storms and droughts have become more of a problem in recent years.
The residents are experiencing tropical storms, heavy downpours, increased snowfall, and droughts like never before.
Extreme heat is the primary concern as climate change affects Stamford in the coming years, according to SafeHome.org. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat is just as damaging as exposure to extreme cold.
15. Jersey City, NJ
It’s easy to forget that New Jersey’s weather can be extreme. Unfortunately, with climate change, Jersey City is finding itself at high risk for increased temperatures and storm risks in the coming years, according to ClimateCheck.com.
Jersey City can be and has been in the path of several coastal storms and hurricanes. Unfortunately, these are expected to worsen for the area over the next few decades. An increase in storm activity can lead to flooding, making it crucial for Jersey City to tackle climate change in the area.
14. Boston, MA
The City of Boston says it like it is. In fact, Boston.gov boldly states that its residents are already being impacted by climate change. Heavy rains, flooding, snow, and excessive heat are acknowledged as both current and future problems.
The city’s mayor has created Climate Ready Boston to help predict and plan for any events brought on by climate change. “Climate resilience” is the plan’s overall goal, and you can read about the specifics of this effort on the city’s website.
13. Huntsville, AL
People living in Huntsville know about the extreme heat they’ve had over the years, but recent heat waves make climate changes more noticeable. Along with the heat can come severe storms, which can lead to localized flooding.
If a larger tropical storm or hurricane has any effect on the city, it can lead to significant damage.
According to the National Weather Service, Tornadoes are also increasing in and around the city. In 2018, the state had to deal with a staggering 46 tornadoes.
12. New York City, NY
While NYC can seem larger than life, it’s not too large for climate change to significantly impact. One of the more subtle changes the city has seen in the last 100+ years is that the sea level has risen over one foot.
Residents and visitors should be aware that the city’s rainfall is projected to increase over the next few decades. Days of extreme heat are also expected to increase over time.
The city is also impacted by more and more coastal storms. Since about half of the state’s residents live along the coastline, the rising water and storms will likely result in unimaginable damage and expenses.
The city has a climate strategy targeted to slow the change and plans for its future impact on the city.
11. Washington, D.C.
One might think that a city full of lawmakers and social changers wouldn’t be on a list for the worst cities for climate change, but it is. Temperatures continue to increase yearly, and residents have some dangerously hot days to contend with throughout summer.
Washington is also next to the Atlantic Ocean, rivers, and Chesapeake Bay, all experiencing rising water levels. According to the Washingtonian, climate change events have already led to some Metro rail stations flooding.
10. Philadelphia, PA
The risks of living in Philadelphia because of climate change are being felt at multiple levels. ClimateCheck states that almost 20% of the buildings in the city are at risk of flooding due to extreme conditions.
Droughts and excessive heavy rainfall are on the rise and are expected to continue to increase in the coming years.
The Philadelphia Water Department recognizes the challenges climate change has put on the city and details its Climate Change Adaptation on its website.
In addition, they say that they’ve partnered with other city agencies to reduce the impact of climate change on their residents.
9. New Orleans, LA
Water is the main factor those living in New Orleans must tackle regarding climate change. The city has seen increasing vulnerability as the surrounding water levels rise. Flooding has become more commonplace due to the rising water and the fact that the city sits at a low elevation.
New Orleans has excellent resources on their NOLA.gov website to help residents and visitors understand how water has changed the city. It also addresses the significant increase in temperature, adding to the city’s climate stress levels.
Once you’ve taken in the climate change facts, make sure to take a look at what the city hopes to do to keep residents comfortable and safe.
8. Chicago, IL
Sweltering heat is the main challenge for Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune. Conditions are becoming hotter and drier for more extended periods. Rain can lead to flooding problems when it comes after dry spells.
The city is trying to be proactive about potential flooding by planting trees that can take the heat and installing green roofs and permeable pavement to help control stormwater.
Reflective roof installations are also on the rise to help keep buildings cooler throughout the hot months.
7. Nashville, TN
Nashville received around 17 inches of rainfall in 2010, flooding the entire area. The event cost Nashville an estimated $2 billion in damage and the loss of lives.
While this happened more than a decade ago, the pattern of extreme rainfall followed by flooding continues to rise in the city.
Extreme heat is a big enough problem that the city has started a “mapping” process to help identify areas being hit the hardest by high temperatures.
Once the mapping is done, the results will, hopefully, indicate the locations and people most adversely affected by heat, followed by a plan to improve conditions.
6. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore is a city that’s seeing climate change from almost every direction. They have rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, droughts, floods, storms, and more, which increasingly impact the city yearly.
Even though attempts have been made to keep the rising water from reaching several businesses, high tides are already infringing on commercial areas.
Baltimore Sustainability lays out what the city needs to do to help lessen the impact of climate change on everyone. This includes the Climate Action Plan and Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project.
5. Santa Cruz, CA
California has many cities that rank as some of the worst for climate change, and Santa Cruz is one of them. The city has seen increased natural events caused by climate change, including flooding and wildfires.
Poor air quality is also an issue, making the city challenging if you have respiratory problems.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery & Resilience adopted the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan in 2022. It’s made up of steps that must be made to reduce the hazards and weather events in the city.
If you’d like a visual representation of the impact of the climate in Santa Cruz, you can look at their online Storymap.
4. Pembroke Pines, FL
According to Surging Seas Risk Finder, Pembroke Pines is positioned to be negatively impacted by rising water levels over the next few decades. Their data points to a flood with more than three feet of water affecting the city any day between now and 2050.
The problems facing the city are addressed on the government website. They include advisories of hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat, wildfires, floods, severe thunderstorms, and lighting threats.
While the website doesn’t appear to have any plan to combat climate change’s effects, they give residents access to helpful information to stay as safe as possible.
3. San Diego, CA
According to the Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report, San Diego had the hottest temperature period for five years since the 1800s.
Moreover, the temperatures are expected to increase over the coming years, according to the University of San Diego, by as much as 10 degrees.
San Diego also combats a rising sea level and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Climate Action Plans are in place, many legally binding within the California Environmental Quality Act.
2. Hialeah, FL
Climate change’s impact on Hialeah is concerning, with an almost 75% risk of flooding over three feet within the next 30 years.
According to the Miami New Times, the city spends plenty of money on short-term solutions like pumps, but it’s like putting a bandaid over a hole in a dam.
The University of Miami released a special report online stating that the water level has risen about nine inches since the 1950s. As a result, Hialeah and its surrounding areas have a real threat of flooding, likely to devastate property and even life.
1. Fresno, CA
If your air quality is bad enough to make all of the poor air quality lists, you’ll have earned the top spot on this list.
Fresonland.org reports that in climate change models, Fresno will have 10 more days with degrees over 100 degrees and 20 more days over 90 degrees over the next 15 years. That’s a pretty tough combination to live with.
Extreme heat can impact a person’s exhaustion level, mood, sleep, dehydration, and more. The heat will only amplify existing problems if air quality makes breathing challenging.
Heat has become such a problem that Fresno County reported a yearly average of more than 182 emergency room visits between 2009 and 2018 on high-heat days, according to the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters.
In addition to temperature extremes, Fresno Alliance states that more precipitation is anticipated in the area, followed by long periods of drought. This often leads to localized flooding.
Rising sea levels and wildfires may also be a problem in the region. With all these climate change issues in the area, it’s easy to see why Fresno gets the top spot.
Climate Change Is a Problem That Impacts Everyone
Even if you don’t live in a city on this list, your home will likely face climate change challenges. However, you can take steps to improve the overall problem in your town.
You can make a difference whether you choose to make changes in legislation, grassroots efforts, or simply being more mindful about your energy use.
You can also read:
- The 20 Best Places to Live if You’re Worried About Climate Change
- States in the U.S. Most At Risk of a Climate Change Disaster
- The 20 Worst Cities to Live without a Car in the U.S.
- The 20 Worst Cities for Allergies in the U.S.
- 20 Cities with the Worst Traffic in the U.S.