America's Health Rankings, United Health Foundation Logo

Climate Policies
Climate Policies in United States
United States

Explore national- and state-level data for hundreds of health, environmental and socioeconomic measures, including background information about each measure. Use features on this page to find measures; view subpopulations, trends and rankings; and download and share content.

How to use this page

Climate Policies in depth:

Climate Policies by State

Number of the following state policies in place: legally binding electricity portfolio standards, carbon pricing policies, climate change action plans and economy-wide greenhouse gas emission targets

Climate Policies Trends

Number of the following state policies in place: legally binding electricity portfolio standards, carbon pricing policies, climate change action plans and economy-wide greenhouse gas emission targets

View All Populations

About Climate Policies

Top State(s): California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington: 4

Bottom State(s): Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming: 0

Definition: Number of the following state policies in place: legally binding electricity portfolio standards, carbon pricing policies, climate change action plans and economy-wide greenhouse gas emission targets

Data Source and Years: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 2022

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

The global temperature has risen about 2° Fahrenheit since 1880. The effects of climate change can be observed today through rising sea levels, wildfires, droughts and extreme rainfall. 

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, rising sea levels and temperatures threaten drinking water, human wastewater treatment and stormwater disposal, increasing the risk of waterborne disease. Wildfires negatively impact air quality, which can lead to respiratory conditions such as asthma, acute bronchitis and pneumonia. Moreover, high temperatures from climate change are associated with heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyperthermia and dehydration, all of which can lead to severe illness or even death. Warmer temperatures also increase cases of vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile and Zika. Global warming is projected to increase continuously unless there is a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change impacts everyone. However, certain vulnerable populations will be disproportionately affected, including pregnant women, children, older adults, individuals with disabilities, poor communities and communities of color. Black, Hispanic and Latino individuals in the U.S. face higher exposure to the harmful impacts of climate change due to where they live and work. Low-income and racial/ethnic minority populations are more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in temperature mortality due to climate change. Similar disparities are evident across time in the case of acute weather events caused or exacerbated by climate change: 

  • The 1995 Chicago heat wave disproportionately impacted Black individuals who had a higher risk of dying or experiencing displacement.
  • After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, researchers found that lower-income neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to flooding from natural disasters. 
  • The 2017 wildfires in Sonoma County have had lasting effects on many vulnerable populations, including displacement, loss of employment and increased housing prices.

Researchers anticipate that climate change will continue to increase existing racial disparities in health.


While individual behaviors play an important role in halting or reversing climate change, the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change have come from fossil fuel corporations. Market forces and technological advances both play a large role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, reducing fossil fuel subsidies can increase fair competition in the energy market, and adopting new technologies can help reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Such technologies include wind power, solar power or biofuels, developing chemical means for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and changing land use to store CO2 in plants, trees and soils. The Environmental Protection Agency plays a role in advancing evidence-based regulations and policy analysis.

While the U.S. has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030, it is far behind target. However, the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and certain policy rollbacks have helped narrow the gap between current U.S. emission projections and the 2030 target. Several states have made efforts to reduce the impact of climate change by implementing cap-and-trade programs, promoting reliance on renewable energy sources for electricity and enacting clean vehicle policies. 

Importantly, climate change policy must also consider emergency preparedness given the pronounced impact that rising sea levels, wildfires, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters already have on communities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has implemented multiple initiatives as part of its strategic plan for improving health equity, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has published disaster planning toolkits and other resources for vulnerable populations and communities with limited access to power and resources.

Healthy People 2030 has several objectives to promote healthier environments, including:

  • Reducing the amount of toxic pollutants released into the environment.
  • Reducing the number of days people are exposed to unhealthy air. 

The federal government continues to work with global partners to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have introduced specific greenhouse gas emission targets, and 31 states have a plan in place or are currently updating their plan to meet climate-related goals.

Berberian, Alique G., David J. X. Gonzalez, and Lara J. Cushing. “Racial Disparities in Climate Change-Related Health Effects in the United States.” Current Environmental Health Reports 9, no. 3 (May 28, 2022): 451–64.

“Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States: A Focus on Six Impacts.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, September 2021.

Introcaso, David. “Climate Change Is The Greatest Threat To Human Health In History.” Health Affairs Blog, December 19, 2018.

Kaiser, Reinhard, Alain Le Tertre, Joel Schwartz, Carol A. Gotway, W. Randolph Daley, and Carol H. Rubin. “The Effect of the 1995 Heat Wave in Chicago on All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality.” American Journal of Public Health 97, no. Supplement_1 (April 2007): S158–62.

Lieberman-Cribbin, Wil, Christina Gillezeau, Rebecca M. Schwartz, and Emanuela Taioli. “Unequal Social Vulnerability to Hurricane Sandy Flood Exposure.” Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology 31, no. 5 (September 2021): 804–9.

Masson-Delmotte, Valérie, Panmao Zhai, Anna Pirani, Sarah L. Connors, Clotilde Péan, Yang Chen, Leah Goldfarb, et al., eds. “Summary for Policymakers.” In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, 2021.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Implications of the California Wildfires for Health, Communities, and Preparedness: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2020.

Reidmiller, David R., Christopher W. Avery, David R. Easterling, Kenneth E. Kunkel, Kristin L.M. Lewis, Thomas K. Maycock, and Brooke C. Stewart. “Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2018.

Current Reports

America’s Health Rankings builds on the work of the United Health Foundation to draw attention to public health and better understand the health of various populations. Our platform provides relevant information that policymakers, public health officials, advocates and leaders can use to effect change in their communities.

We have developed detailed analyses on the health of key populations in the country, including women and children, seniors and those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, in addition to a deep dive into health disparities across the country.