States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card
America’s Preparedness Report Card is a national analysis of state level preparedness for climate change weather-related risks for all 50 states. Climate Central and ICF International identified states with considerable and significantly increasing levels of five major climate threats, including extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland and coastal flooding, with an emphasis on risks to vulnerable populations. They also assessed climate change preparedness actions that each of the states are taking for their current and future projected impacts. The assessment covered five major sectors of society and the economy through 2050, including: transportation, energy, health, water, and communities. Ultimately, the Report Card assigns grades to each state based on what it has already done, as compared to its threat levels and to other states.
According to the summary report, Florida, Texas and California are facing the greatest climate threats of all states. Florida in particular is confronted by all five climate threats, and ranks first for both inland and coastal flooding and second in terms of extreme heat. It was found though that the three states’ readiness responses are very different. California earned an A and leads the nation in overall preparedness, with the highest preparedness scores in all five threat categories. Texas got an F overall, with three D’s and an F for the four threats it faces. Florida earned a C- overall, with grades ranging an F for coastal flooding risk to a B+ for wildfires.
The results of the climate impact research behind the report card indicate that extreme heat is the most pervasive threat, affecting every state, and that extreme heat is also the threat where states are least prepared. The Southeast and Gulf Coast regions are most at risk, where the combination of heat and humidity is projected to cross thresholds dangerous for human health within the next decade. According to the report, only seven states have taken strong action to prepare for extreme heat risks.
Extreme heat has been the most deadly climate impact in the U.S. in the past decade, according to the Report Card. The extreme heat indicator in this assessment is specifically focused on vulnerable populations, including people living in poverty who are under five 5 years old or 65 and older. These populations are at greater risk of sickness or premature deaths from extreme heat.
- 11 states are projected to have an additional 50 or more heat wave days per year
- Two will have an additional 60 heat wave days per year
- Florida is expected to have 80 heat wave days each year
Texas currently faces the highest overall summer drought threat of any state, by a substantial margin. By 2050, however, nine states; Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington are projected to face a greater summer drought threat than Texas does today. The results indicate that some states, like Colorado, Washington and Michigan are reasonably well prepared overall, earning a “grade” of B or higher. Others, like Texas and Montana have taken little action, scoring a D- and an F respectively.
The threat from wildfires is concentrated in four states, Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada, where more than 35 million people live in the high threat zone where wildlands and development converge. But climate driven wildfire threats are not only projected for the western states. Florida, North Carolina and Georgia represent another 15 million people at risk. Overall, current preparedness for wildfires is very high, but readiness for future climate driven wildfire threats is very low; 15 of the 24 states analyzed do not have a climate adaptation plan that includes wildfires.
Florida and California have the largest populations vulnerable to inland flooding, with 1.5 million, and 1.3 million, people living in the inland FEMA floodplain, respectively. Georgia is third most at risk with 570,000 people. Nearly half of all states assessed (17 out of 32) have taken no action to plan for future climate change-related inland flooding risks or implemented strategies to address them.
Florida and Louisiana face enormous coastal flooding threats, far greater than any of the other 22 coastal states. Florida alone has 4.6 million people projected at risk (living in the 100-year coastal floodplain) by 2050. Louisiana has 1.2 million. Overall, states are more prepared for coastal flooding than for any other threat. Florida, however, is not among them. Florida earned an F for coastal flood preparedness, due to its average level of readiness in the face of enormous current and future risks. Louisiana, which is far better prepared, earned a B-.
Publication Date: January 20, 2016