The Natural Resources Defense Council released a new report ranking states in terms of how their governments have addressed the challenges posed by climate change. The report shows that many Corn Belt states rank in the bottom two categories of four category ranking system NRDC created for the report. Since many Midwestern states don’t have as many water challenges, their governments do not appear to be as focused on setting climate change directives.

NRDC’s report focuses on how state governments across the nation are planning and preparing for the water-related impacts of climate change. These impacts include more severe and frequent storms, intense rainfall, sea-level rise, warmer water temperatures and drought events.

The new NRDC report, “Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning,” outlines four preparedness categories to differentiate between the nine best-prepared and most engaged states with comprehensive adaptation plans (including California, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), from those states that are least prepared and lagging farthest behind (including Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia and Texas). 

Corn Belt states that ranked in the bottom, Category 4, include Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota. Category 3-ranked Midwestern states included Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Overall, 29 states have done either nothing at all or very little to prepare for water-related climate impacts.  

Key findings of 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.  (See full list below.)

• 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.

The full list of the nine most prepared states (“Category 1”) consists of:  Alaska, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

The climate crisis poses far-reaching implications for water supply, quality, accessibility and use. More intense rainfall events increase flooding risks to property and health, and can cause devastating economic damages. They also overwhelm often-antiquated infrastructure, leading to increased discharges of untreated sewage in waterways and potentially contaminating drinking water supplies and closing beaches. Drought conditions and warmer temperatures threaten supply for municipalities, agriculture, and industries, and could increase water demand for irrigation, hydropower production and power plant cooling.

NRDC plans to update the map every 6 months to one year as it will continue to monitor changes in each state.

For more information about NRDC’s Ready or Not and to find out how your state ranks, go to http://www.nrdc.org/water/readiness.