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  • 11.30.15

These States Are The Most (And Least) At Risk From Climate Change

If there is one state that is especially screwed, it’s Florida.

Climate change is going affect the whole of the United States one way or another. Whether it’s extreme heat, drought, wildfires, or inland and coastal flooding, no state will be immune. But some are likely to be worse off than others. And some–because they haven’t prepared–are likely to be worst of all.

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That means you, Florida.

In a new report, Climate Central, a group made up of climate scientists and journalists, and ICF International, a consulting firm, assess the threats facing all 50 states and their current level of preparedness. The Sunshine State stands out for both its endangerment and its indifference to those dangers. It faces all five climate threats, including droughts and wildfires. It gets an F grade for “coastal flood preparedness.” And it ranks first in the country for inland flooding and second for extreme heat (it’s projected to see a seven-fold increase in heatwaves by 2050). In climate terms, it has a big “hit me” sign on its back.

“Even though the state has plans in place to face today’s threats, Florida has not taken sufficient steps to prepare for the serious threats posed by future climate change, particularly coastal flooding,” the report says.

Texas doesn’t look much better. It faces four of the five threats and is the most exposed state for extreme heat, drought, and wildfire. And it also gets an overall F grade for preparedness, along with Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, and Arkansas.

By contrast, California also faces grave risks–from inland flooding, for instance (with 1.3 million people at risk). But it gets a A for overall preparedness, with good scores in each of the five categories. Last year, the state published the most comprehensive state plan in the country, called Safeguarding California,

To understand possible future climate impacts, Climate Central and ICF “downscaled” 29 global climate models. Then, for preparedness, they carried out a review of state policies and actions and interviewed state officials. The report assesses states on the basis of threats relevant to them. So Connecticut, for example, is graded for coastal preparedness, but not for drought (see the full rankings here).

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Again, the threat to Florida looks particularly bad. It already has 3.5 million people living in the 100-year coastal flood zone , with another 1.1 million people expected to join that group soon, for a total of 4.6 million people at risk. “Overall, states are more prepared for coastal flooding than for any other threat,” the report says. “Florida, however, is not among them.”

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.

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