How climate change has affected each state
The 2019 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report takes an in-depth look at how climate change is affecting our land—and how land use impacts the climate. On the whole, the news is not positive. The report detailed the negative effects that climate change is having around the world in the form of increasing heat waves, droughts, desertification, and food insecurity.
“New knowledge shows an increase in risks from dryland water scarcity, fire damage, permafrost degradation, and food system instability, even for global warming of around 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.
A target of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is optimistic. In the Paris Climate Accords, which the United States backed out of under President Donald Trump, the goal was to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius; globally, we are not even on track to do that.
The increased risks that Masson-Delmotte mentions are already visible in the United States. There are more fires across the West, food system instability across the Midwest, increased water scarcity in the Southwest, and a growing rate of extreme weather events taking place all over.
One of the biggest challenges when looking at the impacts of climate change is that it is often not possible to directly connect it to a specific hurricane, flood, drought, or fire. But while several elements go into a specific weather event, we are undoubtedly living through an unprecedented number of "1,000-year storms,” extreme heat waves, and droughts.
Stacker compiled a gallery of 50 ways climate change is altering our 50 states by studying state and federal reports, peer-reviewed research papers, and trusted news articles. Of course, each state is experiencing many impacts of climate change, and often all at once. It’s not all terrible news, however: Many of these states are also fighting back against the negative impacts of climate change through actions such as improved agricultural practices, greener buildings, and pledging to rely 100% on clean energy.
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Alabama: $1 billion in storm damage
Alabama experienced severe storms and tornadoes at the end of March 2020, along with other states across the Southeast. Since 2009, Alabama has experienced 20 storms that caused more than $1 billion in damages in total. In response, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Coastal Comprehensive Plan plans to identify the areas most vulnerable to sea level change and coastal storms.
Alaska: 2.4 million acres consumed in wildfires
Increased wildfires caused by climate change consumed at least 2.5 million acres in Alaska in the summer of 2019 alone. These fires could alter the composition of Alaska’s forests, according to a paper published on Aug. 26, 2019, in Nature Plants. In order to better understand and mitigate the effects of wildfires in Alaska, the U.S. Geological Survey has developed models to quantify how fires are expected to change local ecosystems.
Arizona: Average temperature has risen 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit
Arizona is the third fastest-warming state in the U.S., according to an April 2019 report from Climate Central. During the last half-century, Arizona’s average temperature has risen 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The state is trying to combat this change in temperature by creating more shade and using new building materials that do not trap as much heat.
Arkansas: Winter tornadoes becoming more common
According to an April 2019 report by the American Meteorological Society, Arkansas’ average temperature has risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, and winter tornadoes are becoming more common. To lessen the impacts of climate change, Fayetteville has pledged to move to 100% clean energy by 2050.
California: Deadly wildfires
Four of California’s 20 biggest wildfires (since 1932) have occurred after December 2017. The Forest Service at the Tahoe National Forest is pursuing a new strategy that clears chunks of forests in a pattern that encourages wildfires to follow a zigzag path which forces the blaze to move against the wind at least half the time.
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Colorado: More spruce beetle outbreaks
A May 2019 study from Colorado State University found spruce beetle outbreaks could become more frequent in the Rocky Mountains if climate projections hold. Spruce beetles kill trees, and researchers say that even an increase of just 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit could extend the beetles’ flight season from weeks to months.
Connecticut: Coast warming four times faster than world’s oceans
The Connecticut coastline is warming four times faster than the rest of the world’s oceans. This is taking a heavy toll on fishing in the state, with flounder and lobster populations diminishing because of the change in water temperatures. To help fisheries, Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection is looking to acquire and protect critical cold water and wetland habitats.
Delaware: Increased flooding danger
Within the next half-century, nearly 7,000 Delaware residents could be affected by flooding and sea-level rise due to climate change, according to a 2018 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. In fact, only small portions of the northern and western parts of the state are expected to be safe. In response, the state is looking at legislation to help adapt its roads to future flooding.
Florida: 365 days of flooding per year in Miami by 2070
A 2018 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that between 2000 and 2015, high tide floods increased from once to three times a year along the Southeast Atlantic Coast. The report predicts that by 2070, the streets of Miami could be flooded every day. Despite these alarming projections, developers continue to build in the area.
Georgia: Increase of heat-related deaths
According to the U.S. National Climate Assessment, southeastern states like Georgia are facing extreme temperatures because of the climate crisis. A 2017 Brown University study showed that under the worst climate projections, heat-related deaths will increase in Atlanta, and that poorer communities will be on the front lines. In response, the Center for Sustainable Communities in Atlanta sends out teams of students to lower-income areas to share information on making their communities more climate resilient.2018 All rights reserved.