Nicknamed the ‘The Nature State,’ Arkansas boasts a variety of environmental attractions, from the Ozark Mountains to the Arkansas River Valley and the Delta along the Mississippi. Arkansas is home to just over 3 million people and spans about 52 thousand square miles.
Arkansas will become warmer in the coming decades, experiencing more severe floods and drought. Like other states in the Southeast, Arkansas is particularly vulnerable to extreme heat and ensuing extreme weather events, both of which threaten water availability. Annual rainfall is expected to increase, but average rainfall is expected to decrease. This is a dangerous combination. Rainstorms will be more severe, causing damaging floods, but they are also fewer and farther between, with stretches of drought lengthening and intensifying. As a result, the total amount of water running into rivers or recharging groundwater is expected to decline by 5% or more each year. The Arkansas River is the channel of transportation for more than $4 billion worth of freight in a typical year. A shrinking river poses a direct threat to the economy, as barges will not be able to carry as many goods as river levels are reduced.
Arkansas has another interesting connection to climate change: the state is home to the biggest population of Marshall Islands citizens in the US, most of whom left their home to flee climate change as a result of rising sea levels. Of 50,000 Marshall Island citizens, between 12,000 and 15,000 now live in northwest Arkansas (5).
Arkansas continues to rely heavily on coal and natural gas. Coal accounted for 38% of the state’s energy consumption in 2019. 22% of the state’s energy comes from nuclear power. Renewable energy provided almost one-tenth of Arkansas electricity, mostly hydroelectric power and biomass. While the state does not have a renewable energy standard, net metering systems exist that significantly increase energy efficiency.
In 2008, Governor Mike Beebe established the Governor’s Commission on Global Warming. Modified in October, 2010, the GCGW went on to recommend 54 policies, 31 of which were quantified to determine their potential emissions reductions. They were predicted to reduce approximate 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2025. Momentum seems to have been halted in subsequent years. In 2014, the Governor Asa Hutchinson pushed back on former President Obama’s plan to scale back carbon pollution from existing power plants, asserting that governments should not intervene to reduce the climate impacts from fossil fuel production. Arkansas has not developed a climate adaptation plan.