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Climate Change Policies
Climate Change 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.

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Climate Change Policies in depth:

Climate Change 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 Change 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

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Climate Change Policies

About Climate Change Policies

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

Bottom State(s): Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, 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, 2021

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

The occurrence of climate change is settled science — it is already affecting ecosystems, freshwater supplies and public health around the world. Currently in the United States, the effects of climate change can be observed in the forms of 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. The level of global warming is projected to increase continuously unless there is a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change impacts everyone. However, it is projected to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, children, older adults, individuals with disabilities, poor communities and communities of color. Wildfires can have lasting effects for many vulnerable populations, including displacement, loss of employment and increased housing prices. Moreover, a recent study found that Black, Hispanic and Latino individuals face higher exposure to the harmful impacts of climate change due to where they live and work. Minorities and those with low income are more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in temperature mortality due to climate change. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, researchers found that lower-income neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to flooding from natural disasters.

Several states, including Arizona, California and Washington, have made efforts to reduce the impact of climate change by implementing policies that increase dependence on renewable energy, ban new drilling and tax carbon emissions. 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 implemented in combination have been effective 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.

Several of the 17 Global Goals ratified by the United Nations in 2015 center on sustainable living, consumption and production and improving our impact on the environment. The climate action goal outlines targets for effecting change at all levels of policy and infrastructure, as well as measures individuals can take on their own.

“Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States: A Focus on Six Impacts.” 2021. EPA 430-R-21-003. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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

Lieberman-Cribbin, Wil, Christina Gillezeau, Rebecca M. Schwartz, and Emanuela Taioli. 2021. “Unequal Social Vulnerability to Hurricane Sandy Flood Exposure.” Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology 31 (5): 804–9.

Masson-Delmotte, Valérie, Panmao Zhai, Anna Pirani, Sarah L. Connors, Clotilde Péan, Yang Chen, Leah Goldfarb, et al., eds. 2021. “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.

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

Wuebbles, Donald J., David W. Fahey, and Kathy A. Hibbard. 2017. “Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Global Change Research Program.

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.