Arkansas is vulnerable to flooding, drought and increasing temperatures which threaten the state’s agriculture and energy industries and human health
Unlike most of the nation, Arkansas has not warmed in the past century. Arkansas will become warmer in the future however, with both more flooding and droughts likely. Extreme heat and decreased water availability will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. The Southeast in general is exceptionally susceptible to extreme heat, more frequent and more intense hurricanes, and decreased water availability. Arkansas, home to climate refugees from the Marshall Islands, has itself seen at least 29 major disasters due to flooding, severe weather, and hurricanes since the year 2000. These sorts of events are all exacerbated by climate change.
- Flooding: Increasing temperatures and precipitation amplify the risk of flooding, especially along the Mississippi River. Since 1958, the amount of precipitation falling during heavy rainstorms has increased by 27 percent in the Southeast, and the trend toward increasingly heavy rainstorms is likely to continue. In the first week of 2016, the strongest El Nino on record and a warmer atmosphere due to climate change, combined to produce a massive storm that caused record-breaking floods.
- Drought: Although climate change is likely to increase the risk of flooding, droughts are also likely to become more severe. Average rainfall is likely to decrease during the 21st century, especially in spring and summer. In addition, rising temperatures increase evaporation, which dries the soil and decreases the amount of rain that runs off into rivers. The total amount of water running off into rivers or recharging groundwater each year is likely to decline by 5 percent or more. Droughts are likely to be more severe, because periods without rain will be longer and very hot days will be more frequent.
- Increasing Temperatures: The southeast will likely be hit hardest by heat impacts. The number of days at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will increase from an average of 9 per year to 17-43 by mid-century. Higher temperatures will likely reduce the productivity of farms and ranches, change parts of the landscape, and harm human health. In addition, warmer weather will decrease productivity in high-risk sectors like construction, mining, utilities, transportation and manufacturing.
- Adaptation: Arkansas has not developed a climate adaptation plan.
Arkansas residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 64% of Arkansas residents recognize that global warming is happening. The project finds that 70% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 78% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
Arkansas shows significant potential for solar, currently untapped
- Wind: Arkansas is home to four wind manufacturing facilities, but the state has no significant wind generating capacity installed.
- Solar: Arkansas ranks 40th in solar capacity, with 19 MW installed. The solar industry employs 270 people across 31 companies across the value chain.
- Renewable Portfolio Standard: Arkansas does not have any renewable energy policy or portfolio standards. At present, coal-fired plants provide half the state’s electricity.