Known as The Magnolia State, Mississippi has a population of nearly 3 million people and occupies an area of nearly 47 thousand square miles. The state gains its name from the Mississippi River, which is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity, and biological productivity, as well as being a vital commercial waterway and migration route. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Mississippi was the top producer of cotton and became the second state to withdraw from the union in 1861. A little more than one hundred years later, Mississippi became a key battleground state for the Civil Rights Movement.
Today, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the US, with nearly 20% of the state’s residents living below the poverty line, and with the lowest ranking healthcare system. The social and economic factors compound the challenges posed by climate change, which it manifests in Mississippi in the form of extreme heat, drought, and sea level rise. Already today, Mississippi averages 25 days a year when heat exceeds dangerous levels, with that number projected to rise to 100 days annually by 2050. The severity of droughts is expected to increase by over 100% by 2050 in Mississippi. Agriculture and forestry are Mississippi’s biggest industry, so the outcoming of these intersecting factors will be of major consequence for the state’s economy.
Stream flows in the Midwest are increasing as rainstorms become more severe, which in turn raises water levels of the Mississippi River which acclerates the likelihood of inland flooding in Mississippi with 200 square miles currently sitting within the 100-year coastal floodplain, meaning the area with a 1% chance or greater of flooding each year. This is expected to increase to 300 square miles by 2050. In Mississippi, like in Louisiana, sea level rise is also accelerating faster than in the rest of the country because the land is sinking.
In 2019, natural gas accounted for about 74% of Mississippi’s electricity net generation and about 17% was generated by nuclear power. Mississippi is home to the largest nuclear reactor in the US — the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station. Renewable energy accounted for 3% of Mississippi’s 2019 power generation, four-fifths of which comes from biomass and the remainder from solar.
While Mississippi has programs that provide relief and support for current environmental emergencies, the state has not implemented policies that mitigate the future consequences of climate change or that build resilience by focusing on adaptation to the inevitable change. For this lack of action, Mississippi received an F grade on States At Risk’s Preparedness Report Card, which assesses state’s climate responsive policies in comparison to other states and in the context of their unique climate risks.