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2023: United States' most affected states by Climate Change

The United States is currently facing unprecedented droughts and scorching temperatures, highlighting the effects of global warming

By Seerat Bashir
New Update
2023: United States' most affected states by Climate Change

The United States is currently facing unprecedented droughts and scorching temperatures, highlighting the effects of global warming. Pollution levels in both air and water have reached alarming levels across the country. The researchers are investigating the states most affected by climate change, focusing on pollution as a key factor.

Water Pollution

Water pollution caused by dirt, oil spills, industrial waste, and improper disposal of recyclable materials has devastating consequences for marine life. This pollution causes the growth of harmful algae and reduced oxygen levels in the water, known as eutrophication, which destroys aquatic ecosystems. Wastewater contaminants and toxic metals pose significant risks to the global food chain.

In the United States, 50% of assessed river and stream miles, more than 700,000 miles, have been reported damaged, along with 55% of lake acre miles and 25% of estuary acre miles. The following states have the highest percentage of impaired rivers and streams:

State Percentage of Impaired Rivers and Streams
Delaware 97%
New Jersey 95%
Hawaii 91%
California 87%
Louisiana 86%
Oregon 86%
Iowa 84%
South Carolina 81%
Kansas 78%
South Dakota 78%

Water contamination can have a direct impact on human health, especially through the tap water system. Many water systems in California, serving more than 920,000 people, were found to have dangerous levels of toxic contaminants. These contaminants can cause liver and kidney failure, cancer, and diseases such as Legionnaires' disease.

The states with the worst tap water quality:

  • Washington
  • California
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • Ohio

Air pollution

Air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, forest fires, and the presence of ozone and smog pose significant risks to both the environment and human health. The United States released 68 million tons of air pollution into the atmosphere. Nearly 135 million people, or four out of ten Americans, live in areas with poor air quality.

According to the government's State of the Air report, the most polluted cities in terms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels include:

City PM2.5 Level (g/m3)
Visalia, California 16.6
California 16.6
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California 14.5
Los Angeles-Long Beach, California 14.2
Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon 13.9
Fairbanks, Alaska 13
Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona 12.8
Chico, California 12.2
El Centro, California 12.1

Worst States for Climate Change: Extreme Weather

Climate change leads to extreme weather events. Rising global temperatures accelerate the water cycle, causing changes in precipitation patterns. Historically, wet regions experience more rainfall and a higher risk of flooding, while typically dry regions face less rainfall and a higher risk of drought and wildfire.

Heat waves

Heat waves have become more frequent, longer, and more intense due to global warming. The average number of heat waves per year in the US has increased from two in the 1960s to about six today. Heat waves affect an estimated 65.2 million people in the US, with hundreds of deaths each year.

City Temperature (°F)
Paducah 97
Evansville, Indiana 98
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 100
Poplar Bluff, Missouri 100
Carbondale 99

Tropical Cyclones

Tropical cyclones have caused significant economic loss and numerous deaths in the United States. The states most vulnerable to these cyclones are:

State Number of Hurricanes
Florida 120
Texas 64
Louisiana 62
North Carolina 58
South Carolina 31
Alabama 23
Georgia 21
New York 15
Mississippi 14
Virginia 13

Worst States for Climate Change: Natural Hazards

Droughts

Droughts have severe consequences for the US, causing billions of dollars in damage and decreased agricultural production. 229 million acres of crops were affected by drought. The states that most frequently experience extraordinary drought conditions are:

State Number of Extraordinary Droughts
Florida 120
Texas 64
Louisiana 62
North Carolina 58
South Carolina 31
Alabama 23
Georgia 21
New York 15
Mississippi 14
Virginia 13

Forest fires:

Wildfire seasons in the US have doubled in length, resulting in widespread destruction of forests and ecosystems. Wildfires devastated several states, including California, Oregon, and Washington. Notably, more than 10,000 redwoods were destroyed in California alone. The states with the most acres destroyed by wildfires in 2021 were:

State Total Area (acres)
California 2,233,666
Oregon 828,777
Montana 747,678
Washington 674,222
Arizona 524,428
Idaho 439,600
Alaska 253,357
Texas 168,258
Kansas 163,982
New Mexico 123,792

Floods

Floods are frequent and fatal disasters in the United States. Intense rainfall induced by climate change and hurricanes increase the risk of flooding. By the end of the century, floodplains are projected to expand by approximately 45%, and coastal flooding is expected to double in a decade. States with the highest risk of flooding include:

State Percentage of Population at Risk of Flooding
Louisiana 50.56%
Florida 40.08%
Mississippi 23.14%
Arkansas 22.57%
New Jersey 19.27%
South Carolina 19.2%
Maryland 19.17%
Delaware 19.12%

Future perspectives

To combat climate change, the United States has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Initiatives are underway to reduce emissions. methane emissions from various sectors. The government is also investing in climate-smart agriculture and implementing regulations to protect water bodies. Globally, collaborations aim to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The government intends to spend around one billion dollars on Climate-Smart Agriculture, which will generate products using environmentally friendly practices. Rules will be re-established to safeguard America's waterways, keeping environmental safeguards for water bodies that are essential to the health, safety, and economic prosperity of regions.

On a global scale, President Biden collaborated with EU peers to encourage more than 100 countries to take part in the Global Methane Pledge, a new collaboration that seeks to decrease super-polluting methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

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