Southern states and the risk of climate change

In the latest Data Dive, we look at the risks facing the United States as climate change worsens and which states could see the most danger. SafeHome.org collected climate data from the Climate Central research group to develop the Climate Change Risk Index, which assesses five central effects of climate change – extreme heat, drought, wildfires, coastal flooding and inland flooding – in according to their probability of aggravation by State. Higher numbers represent higher risks.

Display data:

Southern states as a region currently face the highest likelihood of increased side effects of climate change, with Mississippi being one of the five most at risk. The average risk index for each region of the country is:

  • Northeast — 123
  • Midwest—147
  • West — 166
  • South — 229

These numbers represent the average Climate Change Risk Index of states in a region, which means, for example, that a state in the South typically has a score of around 229, higher than the national average of 174.

According to data from SafeHome.org, Mississippi has the highest percentage of its population vulnerable to extreme heat at 4%, and the state could see an increase in dangerously hot days of up to 111 days per year. And between 2000 and 2050, Mississippi could also experience a 140 percent increase in summer droughts and a 21-day increase in the number of high-potential wildfire days. Fifty-seven percent of the state’s population is at high wildfire risk.

Floods and droughts are reaching record severity across the country, signaling a future in which the effects of climate change will continue to expose glaring infrastructure problems to the detriment of those citizens most directly affected by the disaster.

READ MORE: ‘The wall people run into’: JSU student says city’s water crisis highlights limits of government

Jackson’s water crisis recently culminated in a citywide system failure that left thousands with little to no running water, exacerbating an already present boil water advisory. which is still in effect. After a week of what the Federal Emergency Management Agency officially declared a disaster on August 30, water has finally been restored for all Jackson residents.

The root cause of the water crisis is the result of years of administrative problems, financial problems, maintenance issues and more, but the most immediate problem that created the recent water system outage was the flooding of the Pearl River by heavy rains.

Mississippi is also at risk for high coastal flooding, with 2.5% of the population affected. Although one of the top ten percentages, other southern states like Florida and Louisiana have at-risk population percentages of 16.7% and 20.4%, respectively.

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Teresa H. Sadler