5 States Most Screwed By Climate Change


No part of the world will be immune to the effects of climate change.

H,owever some parts of the United States are less likely to adapt than others. Is your state one of them?

1. North Carolina

Scientists within North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission have predicted sea level rises of up to 39 inches along the coast by 2100. This figure is especially frightening because a large percentage of North Carolina’s economy is dependent on coastal tourism and business travel. In 2010, vacationers and business travelers spent $17 billion in North Carolina.

Rather than come up with an adaptation strategy, local businesses and developers petitioned the state to forbid any policy decisions from being created based on scientific projections. The state agreed to ignore the findings for 4 years and instead operate under the assumption of a mere 8-inch sea level rise by 2100, a figure made up by lobbyists.

North Carolina's decision provoked outrage across the nation and made them a joke on the Colbert Report. All kidding aside, this legislation could have dire consequences for those who will live, work or vacation in buildings not mandated to handle increased climactic events in flood-prone areas. North Carolina’s bad policies may also have negative economic consequences for the U.S. as a whole, given that its coastal areas will likely be safeguarded by Federal Flood Insurance.

2. Nevada

In 2008, SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography made a big splash when they published research saying that Lake Mead, an important reservoir in Nevada, had a 50% chance of running dry by 2021. In recent years, a decade-long drought caused the lake's water levels to sink to 1,082.36 feet revealing a white "bathtub ring" where the water once was. 

Since droughts are projected to increase, officials are scrambling to make adjustments, but their efforts may not be enough considering Nevada's population is expected to increase 93% by 2020 from 1995 levels. The state's high unemployment rate also calls into question whether they will be able to raise enough capital to get water from other sources.

Even without these roadblocks Nevada's water usage would still be worrisome. As of 2011 Las Vegas boasted 61 golf courses and the average course required 2,507 gallons of water per golfer. Casino fountains also come to mind as a major source of waste.

A new challenge to water conservation throughout the region is hydraulic fracking, a process that involves pumping large amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release oil and natural gas deposits. Some scientists are also concerned that fracking could poison groundwater supplies.

3. Texas

Some of the largest increases in weather vulnerability are expected to happen in Texas. The frequency of extreme heat, droughts, poor air quality, and wildfires have already increased.

As far as climate change goes, when it rains it really does pour. Texas is projected to see increased rainfall and flooding during hurricanes. "One thing we know just from basic theory is that as the climate warms, and as you put more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the intensity of hurricanes should go up," explained Kerry Emanuel, a professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. Texas is already home to the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, which killed 6,000 people.

But perhaps more worrying than climatic events, the lack of political will and continued public indifference regarding how Texas will meet its most basic future needs (such as water availability) are resulting in a lack of meaningful progress towards adaptation.

4. Florida

Florida’s increased vulnerability to drought, extreme heat events, and infectious disease could have negative impacts on two of their most important economic entities: tourism and agriculture. In 2012, an estimated 89.3 million tourists visited Florida resulting in an economic impact of approximately $71.8 billion.

Yet many of the sites visitors are coming to see are in danger due to environmental issues. Rising sea levels are causing coastal erosion and loss of beaches. Overfishing, pollution, and warming waters are threatening coral reefs and wetland species.

Currently, Florida produces the most citrus in the country and the second largest amount of vegetables. As the climate dries, Floridian farmers will have to use more water for irrigation. Fights for water rights have not only already emerged within the state but have also caused legal problems between Florida, Alabama, and Georgia

Many Americans see Florida as a good place to retire. Yet as extreme heat events and tropical disease become more common, Florida’s elderly population could see increased mortality rates. People 65 years of age or older have more difficulty handing heat and increased disease susceptibility.

5. Louisiana

Climate change is intensifying Louisiana's vulnerability in a variety of ways. The wetlands have always been sinking. In the past they were naturally maintained by the Mississippi River continually bringing in new sediment, but this changed after levees were installed to protect nearby homes from the river. The BP oil spill, coupled with rising sea levels from Arctic melting and oil/gas exploration have intensified this issue.

Over the course of 100 years, Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of land and is at risk of losing 1,800 more over the next 50 years. The wetlands are vital for Louisiana's safety and economy. These areas generate approximately $2.4 billion a year in wages and sales for the seafood industry. They also shield further inland areas from hurricane damage.

Although projects have been put in place to slow the degradation of wetlands in Louisiana, their efforts have only had questionable success. Sinking land is also forcing Louisiana to reconstruct Highway 1, which will come at a major cost.