In Your Backyard: New NRDC Web Tool Details How Climate Change Will Worsen Extreme Heat, Drought and Other Growing Problems Affecting States

AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, TX, UT, WA and WY analyzed in NRDC web tool

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Climate change is expected to lead to worsening drought conditions and greater heat extremes, along with myriad health problems, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A new web tool unveiled by NRDC lets users read just how badly their state might be impacted by climate change. On the site, www.nrdc.org/climatemaps, users can see local data and maps detailing extreme weather patterns throughout the country, see local climate change vulnerabilities and learn about health problems in their own communities that are connected to climate change.

Based on an analysis of weather station data gathered by the National Climatic Data Center and other sources, NRDC's new "Climate Change Threatens Health" webpage lets users see the effects of climate change at a regional and state level.

For example, the NRDC web tool compares temperature data in each state from 2000 through 2009 to local temperatures from 1961 to 1990.  Users can see that residents of the western United States experienced more days of extreme heat than in previous decades and a frequency of drought conditions from 2000 through 2009.

This extreme heat can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease, while drought can lead to lower crop yields and contaminated drinking water. Many communities do not have plans in place to address these problems. 

Among the key findings:

  • 20 states that have experienced the worst extreme heat are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.  This means residents in the majority of these states and in D.C. experienced more than two weeks per summer of extreme heat that was worse than in past decades.
  • All but two states had at least one county that experienced more than two weeks of summer days of extreme heat. 
  • About 81 percent of those states most vulnerable to extreme heat do not have heat-health adaptation plans (AL, AK, AZ, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, ID, KS, MA, MT, NV, NM, TX, UT, WY). This highlights the lack of climate-health preparedness in many locations. 
  • On the positive side, 19 percent (4 of 21) of states in the highest heat-vulnerability group (CA, NH, OR, WA) also have heat preparedness plans. Seven "vulnerable" states have extreme heat climate preparedness plans already in place to help protect their residents' health (FL, ME, MD, NY, PA, VA, WI).

"Climate change is real and in many cases is already affecting people and natural ecosystems," said Kim Knowlton, senior scientist in NRDC's health and environment program "Our analysis will help people across the country find out exactly how climate change affects their state. From the dangers of extreme heat and increased flooding to the spread of  ragweed whose pollen causes allergies or mosquitoes that can spread disease, climate change does not discriminate and local communities need to be better prepared."

Dan Lashof, director of NRDC's Climate Center, said these threats, aggravated by increased levels of carbon pollution, illustrate the danger of congressional efforts to dismantle the Clean Air Act and its public health protections.

"Climate preparedness should be better funded, and the states that don't have public health preparedness strategies in their climate adaptation plans definitely need to add those," Lashof said.  "Our maps show this is an ongoing problem, and the health effects of this summer's heat waves have not even been fully measured yet."

The NRDC website can be found here www.nrdc.org/climatemaps

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org

SOURCE Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C.



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http://www.nrdc.org/climatemaps

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