States Prepare for Climate Change

2-2016_EarthSunBy Ed Burke, Dennis K. Burke Inc.

Different states have different levels of climate change risks, and some are better prepared than others. A comprehensive analysis done by Climate Central and ICF International, States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card, offers some insight as to how the states are doing.

The report covers five specific threats: extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding. It quantifies each state’s current and future climate threats and assesses the level of action taken to deal with those risks compared to other states. Each state received a letter grade from A to F to illustrate its climate change preparedness.

CONNECTICUT – Overall Grade: A-
Connecticut is one of the leaders in preparing for its climate threats, which include extreme heat, inland flooding, and coastal flooding. It is one of only a few states that have a detailed climate change adaptation plan.
Connecticut has one of the lowest extreme heat threats among the lower 48 states. Despite this, the state has included extreme heat in its adaptation plan. To increase resilience to climate change-related inland flooding, the state is creating policies and funding opportunities. Connecticut has more than 55,000 people currently at risk of coastal flooding and 30,000 more are projected by 2050. The state is taking more action than most coastal states to address future risks.

MAINE – Overall Grade: D
Maine faces growing threat levels from extreme heat, drought, inland flooding, and coastal flooding. While it has started to prepare for climate change threats, more preparedness effort is needed.

Maine has done very little to prepare for its current extreme heat threats, but has started planning for future heat risks. Maine has low summer drought threats, but is taking strong action to address current risks. Maine could improve its grade by implementing the resilience measures identified in its adaptation plan.

Maine faces one of the nation’s greatest inland flooding threats and has taken strong action to understand its future risks but still needs to implement adaptation measures to prepare for projected inland flooding risk.
Maine’s coastal flood threat is projected to increase by 85 percent by 2050, but the state has not taken as much action as other coastal states. Maine could improve resilience to sea level rise by implementing adaptation policies beyond the transportation sector.

MASSACHUSETTS – Overall Grade: A
Massachusetts tops New England states in climate change preparedness. It is one of the leaders in preparing for extreme heat, inland flooding, and coastal flooding. The state has taken extensive measures to prepare for current risks, and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act requires that all state agencies prepare for climate change impacts.

Massachusetts is one of the nation’s leaders in preparing for future extreme heat risks. Addressing it in its adaptation plan, it has already started to implement resilience strategies outlined in the plan.

Massachusetts is also a leader in preparing for future inland flooding risks. The state has assessed its vulnerability to climate change-related flooding, developed an adaptation plan that covers inland flooding, and has started to implement resilience strategies.

By 2050, Massachusetts’ coastal flood threat is projected to increase by 160 percent, the largest increase among coastal states. It has taken some of the strongest action to prepare for future coastal flooding risks, and has taken significant steps to understand and plan for sea level rise. It has also implemented regulations that require climate change projections for coastal flooding be included in state programs and activities.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – Overall Grade: C
New Hampshire is facing significant and growing threat levels from extreme heat and coastal flooding between now and 2050.

Although New Hampshire faces the lowest overall extreme heat threat among the lower 48 states, the state has taken strong action to prepare for its current risks, primarily through sector-specific programs. New Hampshire has also taken steps to prepare for future risks through Climate Change and Human Health in NH: An Impact Assessment.

New Hampshire has taken strong action to address its current coastal flooding risks. But aside from an adaptation plan developed specifically for the transportation sector, the state has taken far less action than the majority of coastal states to prepare for sea level rise.

RHODE ISLAND – Overall Grade: B
Rhode Island is facing generally low-to-moderate threat levels. The state has a number of assessments and plans in place to address future climate risks, doing more to implement climate adaptation plans than most states.

Rhode Island has a relatively moderate climate, but has taken considerable steps to plan for projected extreme heat risks and has started putting those plans into action.

Rhode Island faces a below average inland flooding threat level, but has taken strong action to address its current risks, and implementing adaptation measures for its projected future risks.

Rhode Island has done less than the average state to address its current coastal flooding risks and to understand projected future threats, but is implementing adaptation strategies to address these risks.

VERMONT – Overall Grade: C+
Vermont is the only state in the country facing a significantly increasing threat from one climate risk: extreme heat. Vermont has done well in preparing for its current heat risks, particularly with communication materials for residents. However, Vermont needs to do more to prepare for future extreme heat risk.

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