In this post of examining climate action across the United States, we are focusing on Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. Three states in the middle of the county, each working to address the climate crisis in their own ways.
In Kentucky the focus is on the economy and creating resilient jobs. While in Missouri much of the work on climate is in academia, lead by professors and students. And with its great wind energy potential, Kansas is leading the country on renewable power generation.
This month we are looking at three south-central states: Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Each of these states is moving forward with climate action in their own way.
Texas is interesting from a climate perspective because much of its revenue is generated from fossil fuels industries while it also experiences extreme climate-related disasters: hurricanes, wildfires, sea level rise, extreme winter weather, etc. Despite polarizing public views on climate change, there is a lot of climate action by federal agencies, academia, local governments and committed nonprofits.
Oklahoma is a state where it is difficult to talk about “climate change” but it is fine to say “sustainability” and to talk about wind power. The state gets 35% of its energy generation from wind, which also brings jobs and economic growth to the state. A few cities and the state university system are also moving forward with climate action.
New Mexico shows bipartisan support of businesses and community leaders to make a transition away from coal and toward a clean energy economy. And re-election of Governor Grisham in 2022 will allow her climate program, launched by Executive Order in 2019, to continue to develop.
In this post we are focusing on the eastern seaboard – specifically the states of Delaware, Connecticut, and South Carolina. While these three states all share the threat of sea level rise, their actions highlight the diversity of approaches to climate change.
Delaware is actively working to address climate change. A Climate Action Plan, completed in November 2021, includes all state agencies’ operations and offers support, training, and improved communication with local communities. As part of this, the state partnered with the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) to provide professional development level certifications in climate competency. This Climate Leadership Academy is available to state and local government leaders, infrastructure executives, and business leaders in 2022.
Connecticut’s Governor Lamont and various state agencies are deeply engaged in climate work and have been for many years. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) created a portal that documents all climate laws, executive orders, and initiatives in the state since 2004, demonstrating the state’s long and committed efforts to both mitigate and adapt to climate impacts.
At the state level, South Carolina has not done much to address climate change beyond federally-mandated hazard mitigation planning. Despite the lack of state support and limited authority of local governments, there are small moves towards climate action.
The theme this month is Mississippi River states. These states are good examples of why each state needs the ability to direct its own climate work. Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi share borders but have very different circumstances that affect how climate issues are seen and addressed by both residents and policy makers.
Arkansas is moving forward with building an electric vehicle charging network, fostering a solar power industry, while also requiring the coal fired power plants to be evaluated every three years. There are municipal and university climate programs, and a business association for non-fossil fuel energy. Despite a lack of formal state level support, there are people on the ground working to move climate action forward.
Tennessee has a strong cohort of people taking action on mitigation, including developing a statewide electric vehicle charging network, solar propagation, and wind power development. Universities in the state are teaching about sustainability and climate mitigation. Unfortunately, there is not much work yet on climate adaptation.
Mississippi focuses on issues of climate resilience like sea level rise, storm impacts on the coast, oil spill recovery, and impacts to inhabitants of coastal areas. Despite no legislative interest in climate action, there is a very strong cohort comprised of MS State University, the MS-AL Sea Grant, Cooperative Extension, and the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration. There is also growing momentum for solar power and electric vehicle charging across the state.
In this update we are focusing on three western states: Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. These three states are all taking action on climate change and working hard to protect their communities.
In one of his first actions as Nevada’s Governor, Steve Sisolak launched a strong climate agenda with a 2019 Executive Order. The state has been busy working to address climate change ever since.
Leaders and voters in Utah are supporting climate action, even if it’s not always identified as such in the legislation. Both the University of Utah and Utah State University Cooperative Extension have very strong climate programs. There is also a dedicated network of nonprofits across the state working on climate issues.
With strong economic interests in oil, gas, and coal industries, Colorado is an interesting state for climate action. Since 2015 government leaders, universities, nonprofits, and local communities have all worked to move the needle on climate change.
This month we are taking a closer look at the southeast. With communities feeling the impacts of increasing temperatures and sea level rise, the need for building climate resilience is growing. As places where the phrase “climate change” can be a problem, it has been remarkable to learn how much progress is being made.
Florida’s Governor famously banned the phrase “climate change” in 2015. Remarkably, just a few years later in 2021 the legislature passed a comprehensive climate change adaptation bill with unanimous support.
In Georgia climate change is not discussed using direct terms. But that has not stopped a robust cadre of university, nonprofit organizations, and local governments from generating momentum to address the climate crisis. Instead, these efforts focus on real impacts faced by farming, forestry, and coastal communities, centering the conversations in lived experiences.
Alabama seems to be the least engaged state in the country when it comes to climate work. The legislature and Governor are deeply conservative. And the key science advisor in the state does not believe climate is impacted by human activity. Nevertheless, hazard mitigation efforts (mostly coastal) and climate education programs are helping people be prepared.
Florida is understandably very concerned about sea level rise, hurricanes, and flooding. These climate impacts are affecting the whole state and there is unanimous conviction among legislators and the Governor that action must be taken. Several bills were passed in 2021 to increase funding and build capacity for climate adaptation at the community level. Florida has a very well-organized network of 10 Regional Planning Councils. State funding and support is funneled through these councils to cities, counties, and regions for adaptation work. Additional support also comes from the Florida Climate Institute, a 10-university multi-disciplinary network.
On the other hand, climate change mitigation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is still dismissed in state government. In fact, laws such as SB 856 & SB 1128 are being passed to make it harder to take action at the municipal and regional level. These laws prevent construction of clean and efficient energy infrastructure and prevent local governments from banning the use of natural gas in new construction.
Outside of state government, however, there are several organizations working statewide on climate mitigation, such as the SE Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is also strong on reducing carbon through energy efficiency, fuel reduction, clean energy goals, and energy resilience projects. Despite efforts to protect the fossil fuel industry and natural gas burning utilities, Florida continues to make progress on reducing greenhouse gases.
Despite the current political reality in Georgia’s state government, academic and nonprofit organizations are doing important climate change work. The Georgia Climate Project, a consortium of 9 universities and industry representatives, is making a concerted effort across the state. GA Conservancy is a statewide nonprofit organization, originally launched 50 years ago with a conservation focus but has now shifted to a focus on climate. The Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant programs work extensively on coastal adaptation work, and are leading regional forestry efforts.
The GA Municipal Association publishes a statewide newsletter that speaks openly about the threat of climate change to cities and has convened subgroup of 70 Atlanta metro cities on the issue of climate change. Atlanta has been a longtime leader in the state with their Climate Action Plan published in 2015 and and still active. In contrast to all this important action, the legislature just passed a law preventing local governments from prohibiting the use of oil and gas systems in new construction. This same law has passed in several states across the USA.
Alabama is a state where simply using the term “climate change” can hamper action. However, it is also a state suffering devastating losses and on-going threats from coastal flooding, sea level rise, and hurricanes. As a result, hazard mitigation and preparation are addressed actively in a State Hazard Mitigation Plan and within the Southeast CASC (Climate Adaptation Science Center). The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club both have active chapters here, while Auburn University and Energy Alabama are using education to help address misinformation and develop a more informed audience for climate information.
Unfortunately, there are several significant influencers in the state, including the state climatologist and Alabama Power. While work to address climate change is muted in Alabama, there are many good people working hard on the ground to change that reality.
This month we are looking at the eastern seaboard. Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island provide examples of effective climate action, including both mitigation and adaptation, and social equity. These states are also members of the Transportation & Climate Initiative, launched in 2010, along with 10 other eastern states.
To kick off the New Year in our series looking at climate action at the state level, we are looking at 3 states that are neighbors, share many of the same climate issues and yet have different approaches to climate work: North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota
This month we are looking at the western states of California, Oregon, and Washington. All are generally progressive states and have embraced climate change both socially and legislatively with policy, funding, and political will. Despite working on climate issues for many years, there is more to do. Fortunately all three are positioned to make real headway.
Lane County, Oregon is located on the western side of Oregon and stretches from the Three Sisters mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It is home to a diverse population in both rural and urban settings. In mid-2020 Beyond Toxics and NAACP Eugene/Springfield established a Climate Equity and Resilience Task Force. Comprised of community representatives and stakeholders who live and work with diverse and underrepresented communities in Lane County. their role was to ensure that the actions developed by the County in their Climate Action Plan were equitable.
This effort provides a unique opportunity to see a successful collaboration between local government and community organizations. Both entities were committed to finding a pathway for community input, insights, and expertise in the County’s formal planning process. Beyond Toxics produced a countywide vulnerability assessment as a starting point. Next came developing meaningful strategies that incorporated community input while also reflecting the realities of Lane County staff and resources.