It’s a known fact that climate change is impacting how often natural events like floods and hurricanes occur and how severe their impact will be. For this reason, it’s important that states admit to the potential disasters that could occur as a result of climate change and plan emergency responses accordingly. To help prepare for potential disasters, every state is required to file a state hazard mitigation plan with FEMA. Unfortunately, states are not required to take climate change into account when forming hazard mitigation plans. This is in spite of FEMA recently acknowledging that climate change could increase areas at risk of flooding by 45% over the next century, according to Grist.
Are States Prepared for Climate Change?
To see how seriously states are taking climate change and determine which states need to plan better, researchers at Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law studied the Hazard Mitigation Plans of all 50 states. After analyzing the accuracy of each state’s predictions, the team grouped the states into four categories:
- No discussion of climate change or inaccurate discussion of climate change
- Minimal mention of climate change related issues
- Accurate but limited discussion of climate change and/or brief discussion with acknowledgement of need for future inclusion
- Thorough discussion of climate change impacts on hazards and climate adaptation actions
Factoring in the terminology used in the mitigation plans, the researchers docked states that omitted words like “climate change” and “global warming.” The researchers presented their findings on a state map, as seen above.
After analyzing the plans, the researchers found that coastal states like Alaska and New York were most likely to discuss climate change, while land-locked states like Wyoming and Oklahoma were least likely to discuss changes that would result from climate change. This signals a lack of awareness of the effects of climate change among officials in land-locked states. “The relative lack of discussion of climate change in land-locked states,” the report says, “may point to a need for greater communication of how risks such as drought, floods, heat events and non-coastal storms are affected by climate change.”
Planning for the Future
Judging by the map, is your state prepared for potentially disastrous natural events resulting from climate change? As states continue to submit disaster mitigation plans for 2014 and beyond, it’s important that each state, even those where there is no risk of the sea level rising flooding away its land, accepts that climate change is occurring and discuss the ways in which climate change will impact their area.