Which US Cities Are Least Prepared for Climate Disaster?

In this 2015 photo, Louis Fernandez walks along a flooded street in Miami Beach, Fla.

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

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In this 2015 photo, Louis Fernandez walks along a flooded street in Miami Beach, Fla.

New studies find cities most vulnerable to climate change disasters—heat waves, flooding, rising seas, drought—are the least prepared.

This month the cities of Austin and Seattle passed ordinances to tackle the already-here disaster of climate change. In Seattle, the city council passed a resolution to endorse adopting its own local version of the federal Green New Deal proposal, requiring the city to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while increasing affordability for low-income families. Austin, Texas, became the first city in the Deep South to declare a climate change emergency. The only other southern jurisdiction to declare this kind of emergency is Montgomery County, Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, D.C.  

Yet when it comes to climate change disaster risk, neither of those cities really face the most serious problems—at least not when compared with other cities. A new study released this month, “How Climate Change Will Impact Major Cities Across the U.S.,” charts cities’ risk levels for incurring damage from climate-change-spurred floods, droughts, sea level rise, heat waves, and cold waves. Using data from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN), Eylul Tekin, a research assistant for the online real-estate platform Clever, analyzed those risk factors along with each city’s plans to adapt to those weather hazards. She found that the cities that are most vulnerable to climate disasters happen to also be the least prepared for managing those catastrophes.

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