As the Paris climate talks continue on, a recently published report card is helping to bring the issue of climate change a bit closer to home. Released just prior to the U.N. climate summit, where world leaders converged to stave off climate change, the States at Risk report is the first national analysis of state-level preparedness for climate-driven threats.
States were scored on an A through F grading scale and assessed on their individual preparedness relative to other states across five distinct climate-related threats: extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding and coastal flooding. The study was conducted by research group Climate Central in collaboration with consulting firm ICF International.
So, here’s the rundown: The most at-risk states include California and Florida (which face all five threats), as well as Texas (which faces four of the threats).
In regards to overall disaster-response preparedness, California is at the top of the list, earning an A across all five categories, indicating its national lead and example of best practices to combat climate change.
“Across the United States, extreme weather poses a significant risk to the U.S. economy, infrastructure and lives, and the costs of recovery are taking an increasingly large economic toll on federal, state and local coffers,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.Devastatingly, more than half of all states assessed have taken no action to plan for future climate-related inland flooding risks or taken action to address them.
“Since the 1980s, the annual number of disasters with a price-tag exceeding $1 billion has nearly tripled, from less than three to more than eight a year. Planning and taking steps to address these inevitable disasters cuts long-term costs, reduces impacts, and ensures states and communities can more quickly rebound from losses. Rather than continue to write big checks post-disaster, we as a nation must invest in ourselves to become less vulnerable.”
The lowest scores were doled to Texas, Nevada, Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas, where little-to-no action has been taken to mitigate projected climate change challenges.
The report also lays out major issues that states must address on a policy level as it relates to citizen vulnerability. Impoverished populations (the majority of whom are elderly or under the age of 5) are the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, which exacerbates hunger and availability of water, transportation and resources during times of extreme heat.
Though the report commissioned favorable opines from researchers at the University of Arizona, and former public officials, the request to meet climate change with serious policy and behavioral change has been an uphill battle both nationally and globally. President Barack Obama has been criticized and blocked harshly by the U.S. House of Representatives for his stance and efforts to put climate change on the agenda.
If world leaders can make a deal over the next few days of the summit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global level, the data provided by this report gives an invaluable starting ground for state leaders to begin taking action to protect their economies and their constituents from the very real threat of climate change.
Images via States at Risk report
Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.