• 02.13.14

These Are The States That Won’t Be Ready For Future Climate Disasters

Some states are planning for big weather events. Some are not. If you live in Delaware, watch out.

These Are The States That Won’t Be Ready For Future Climate Disasters
[Image: Breezy Point, NY via Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock]

How ready is your state for climate change? Take a look at this map to find out. It shows how each state’s disaster planning strategy–a.k.a. “State Hazard Mitigation Plan”–treats risks from global warming. As you can see, there’s a quite a few disparities. Some coastal states have “thorough” plans, while landlocked states tend to have done much less.


The map is from a recent analysis by Matthew Babcock, at Columbia’s Center for Climate Change Law. Babcock reviewed all 50 plans, searching for keywords (climate change, sea level rise) and looking at risk assessments for drought, flooding, and extreme temperatures.

States like Alabama, Delaware, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oklahoma are in Category 1 (yellow)–meaning their documents include “no discussion of climate change.” Category 2 (orange) states include Virginia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, which make “minimal mention of climate change related issues.” Category 3 (red) has big states like Florida, New Jersey, and Oregon. Their hazard plans make “accurate but limited” mention of climate change. Then there are the Category 4 (brown) states, with “thorough” plans (California, New York, and Massachusetts).

Babcock says the different approaches reflect a greater awareness of climate change risks in coastal states that have already suffered major storms. “The results of the survey indicate that coastal states are more likely to include a discussion of climate change, possibly due in part to recent emphasis on and awareness of the relationship between climate change and sea level rise, coastal storms, and related hazards,” he says.

But it also seems that some states don’t want to know about climate change, despite seeing heightened risks. “It is unlikely that states are omitting a discussion of climate change because climate change will not affect the hazards they face,” Babcock stays. “These states rarely connected climate change with their discussion of these hazards.”

For example, Georgia’s plan warns of a host of potential problems, including storm surges, inland flooding and droughts. But it doesn’t suggest that climate change will have any impact on these risks: global warming isn’t mentioned at all in its planning for the disasters of the future.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.