New Report Shows Only Nine States are Prepared

Water-Readiness-map524The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) recently published a report analyzing climate preparedness levels in all 50 U.S. states.

The disturbing facts should make everyone sit up and take notice. As climate change affects everyone, it is imperative that all countries, states, communities and people prepare for the impacts. Currently, only nine U.S. states have actively prepared for the water-related impacts of climate change.

The color-coded map (above) shows in stark colors that more than 60 percent of the country is completely unprepared.

  • Dark Green: The state has developed an integrated and comprehensive preparedness plan that addresses all relevant water sectors and state agencies.
  • Light Green: Activities to prepare for climate change impacts are underway in select state agencies, but they are fragmented, not fully coordinated, or not guided by an overarching strategy or plan.
  • Light Orange: The state’s consideration of potential climate change impacts on water resources in existing programs and policies is limited.
  • Dark Orange: The state has yet to formally address climate change preparedness.

“Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are impacting our families, our health and our pocketbooks. Water is a matter of survival. It powers our lives and industries, and it keeps our natural systems healthy,” said NRDC Water and Climate Program director Steve Fleischli. “This report is both a wake-up call and a roadmap for all communities to understand how vital it is to prepare for climate change so we can effectively safeguard our most valuable resources. Preparing for the impacts of a changing climate requires that states confront reality, and prioritize climate change adaptation to reduce local water risks and create healthier communities.”

Fleischli points out that different communities are affected differently. Some must prepare for rising sea levels and heavier rainfall; others must prepare for droughts. Some communities that rely on snow runoff in the spring might have to deal with heavy rainfall instead of snow in the winter, so they need to address the issues of water storage.


General Overview: Steve Fleischli, Director, NRDC Water & Climate Program

Key findings from the report include:

  • Nearly nine out of 10 states are poised for more frequent and intense storm events and/or increased flooding.
  • While at least 36 states are facing possible water supply challenges, only six of those have comprehensive adaptation plans.
  • The majority of states – 29 or nearly 60 percent – have done either nothing at all or very little to prepare for water-related climate impacts.
  • Six states – Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota – have done virtually nothing to address climate pollution or prepare for climate change in the face of growing water risks.
  • Water preparedness activities appear to have “slowed or stalled” in four of the nine best prepared states – Alaska, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
  • Only 22 states have developed plans and formally adopted targets or goals to cut the pollution that causes climate change, which comes mainly from power plants and vehicles.

NRDC water policy analyst and report author Ben Chou said, “A handful of state governments should be recognized as climate leaders for developing robust comprehensive adaptation plans while taking steps to cut global warming pollution. On the flip side, there is tremendous potential for so many more states to follow suit. The first step is understanding how your state will be impacted by climate change. With an ever-growing body of research, new adaptation tools, and guidance resources, there’s no excuse not to tackle this challenge.”

Preparedness Suggestions:

  • Enact plans to cut emissions from power plants, vehicles and other major sources of heat-trapping pollution; coupled with increased investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Conduct a statewide vulnerability assessment to determine potential climate change impacts.
  • Develop a comprehensive adaptation plan to address climate risks in all relevant sectors.
  • Prioritize and support implementation of the adaptation plan.
  • Measure progress regularly and update the adaptation plan as needed.

NRDC Senior Scientist Kim Knowlton explains how these climate-related effects can threaten health.

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