North Carolina Climate Report: How Climate Change Is Affecting Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina, City, Skyline, Cityscape

Climbing temperatures and ever-changing weather patterns aren’t just affecting the polar bears and the coastal communities anymore. 

Charlotte, North Carolina, is feeling the brunt of climate change, too. 

Whether you’re a business owner, resident, or just interested in how climate change shapes our world, this report will give you a clear picture of what’s going on. 

From increased flooding to shifting migration patterns for animals and plants, get all the facts about how climate change is already impacting Charlotte right now.

The impacts of climate change in Charlotte

Climate change is the primordial reason for the drastic rise in North Carolina’s average temperature. 

This increase means there are more extreme weather conditions, like flooding and droughts. North Carolina has always had seasonal changes to its climate, but due to global warming, North Carolina winters aren’t as cold as they once were. 

The city with the greatest overall risk in North Carolina is Charlotte.

In recent years, the following effects of climate change in Charlotte include: 

  • Extreme temperatures: In the last century, temperatures in North Carolina have increased by 1.2° F on average
  • Increased precipitation: this has risen by 5% in several areas of the state (USEPA 1998). 
  • Despite variations in temperature and rain within the state, the current decade was warmer and wetter than the previous four decades.

These warmer temperatures mean North Carolina summers are hotter than ever before. Shifting climates also impact rainfall across North Carolina. Winters are wetter, and summers are drier, which can cause droughts or even wildfires

North Carolina wildlife is affected by these shifting climates, too; migratory animals move North or West of Charlotte because their old habitats can no longer support them during warmer months. 

Some North Carolina plants have also become invasive because of this climate change. North Carolina has always had extreme weather conditions, but because of shifting climates, North Carolina is now impacted by these changes more than ever before.

North Carolina and Charlotte residents can expect more and more heatwaves, rainstorms, and hurricanes in the future because of shifting climates.

To prepare for these extreme weather events, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit on hand at all times with food and water, use sun safety when out during summer months, and stockpile home supplies like flashlights to prepare for potential power loss during storms.

North Carolina wildfire

A low-intensity wildfire that started in The Lost Cove Wilderness Study area near Charlotte in December of 2021 quickly spread throughout the region, burning an estimated 700 acres.

The increased temperatures put North Carolina at an increased risk of repeat wildfires. 

Harsher hurricanes

Because North Carolina’s average temperature is rapidly changing, residents are now exposed to harsher storms and more dangerous heat waves. 

Residents need to be prepared for extreme rainfall; storms like Hurricane Matthew, which caused extensive flooding across the mid-Atlantic region, may start to become more common due to climate change. 

We can expect stronger hurricanes, too, such as Hurricane Florence which hit North Carolina directly in 2018. 

Depleted water resources

The coastal flooding and saltwater intrusion into aquifers – as well as severe droughts that reduce water resources available for drinking, industry, and agriculture industries – are all likely to result in water shortages throughout North Carolina

More than half of the state’s population relies on groundwater for drinking. 

Low water flows and higher temperatures may also increase pollution in water, necessitating more expensive drinking water purification.

High energy demand and more carbon footprint

Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city and its major business center. With a highly metropolitan city like Charlotte, the inevitable trend will be a higher demand for energy use. 

Temperatures are predicted to rise above 95°F roughly 20 to 40 days per year in most of the state by the end of the century, as opposed to the 10 days per year that’s the norm today. This is likely to lead to increased use of air conditioning, driving up energy use and costs. 

How the economy of charlotte is affected by climate change

With a population of over 827,000 people, Charlotte is the country’s second-fastest-growing big city

The city is growing at a rate of 44 people per day, and the metropolitan region’s economic output is ranked 14th in the country. This progress, however, may be hampered as the effects of climate change become more apparent each year.

North Carolina’s economy will be affected by North Carolina’s changing climate. North Carolina could see more frequent storms that damage homes or crops, causing power outages and slowing down roadways. 

Higher taxes

North Carolinians may have to pay higher taxes to rebuild damaged structures, streets, and power lines, which would negatively affect North Carolina’s economy. 

Employment insecurity

North Carolinians may also lose their jobs if they work specifically in farming or manufacturing sectors tied directly to North Carolina weather patterns. 

Storm costs

Likewise, the economic losses due to natural catastrophes may be significant, and because the path of the storm’s impact is determined by its location, states may be affected to a greater or lesser extent with each occurrence. However, as more storms are predicted to occur and become more severe, North Carolina and its neighboring states will undoubtedly face additional economic costs.

Our Picks For The Best Charlotte, NC, Neighborhoods & Suburbs

Climate change in Charlotte as a potential public health emergency

High air temperatures and exceptionally hot days can induce heatstroke and dehydration, risking the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Children, the elderly, the ill, and the poor are all at an increased risk.

The formation of ground-level ozone – a key ingredient in urban smog – can also be increased by warmer air. Ozone has been linked to a variety of health consequences and exacerbates asthma and lung diseases such as heart or respiratory diseases. In response, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North Carolina Division of Air Quality have been working to reduce ozone levels.

Air pollution

Charlotte and Gastonia, in particular, have had a long history of air pollution. 

The American Lung Association has named the Charlotte Gastonia-Salisbury metro areas among the top twenty (16th) most ozone-polluted communities in the United States.

In 2001, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility, with a total at-risk population of 2.1 million, asthma health care expenditures were $7.5 billion each year in North Carolina. In addition, there has been an increasing number of individuals with asthma among both children and adults in North Carolina.

Is Charlotte, NC a climate-ready city?

North Carolina is already taking action to prepare for the ongoing effects of climate change in its location.

This has included:

  • Instituting stricter building codes for buildings located in flood-prone areas or low-lying coastal regions
  • Encouraging greater use of renewable energy sources
  • Prompting North Carolina farmers to plant more sustainable crops – like sweet potatoes – that require less water

North Carolina’s adaptation plan is about preparing for these changes as they happen so that people can adapt to and survive any extreme weather events.

Climate change mitigation in North Carolina

North Carolina and Charlotte residents can take mitigation actions to reduce North Carolina’s greenhouse gas emissions that in turn contribute to climate change. 

Residents can prepare for the future by:

  • Installing solar panels on their homes
  • Building or adapting energy-efficient buildings/homes
  • Using public transportation where possible
  • Recycling waste materials
  • Walking or biking whenever possible
  • Avoiding the use of single-use plastics like straws and water bottles

Although small, these actions can all play their part in mitigating the climate crisis, alongside policy-related changes. 

A drive towards cleaner power

Charlotte is encouraging the city to cut carbon emissions from buildings, automobiles, buses, and the regional economy by investing in the community through job training programs and powering city-owned facilities with cleaner energy sources.

It’s an approach that has earned the city national attention for its leadership in community-driven clean energy. 

Charlotte has also been recognized as one of just 10 U.S. cities to score higher than 70 on CDP’s Community Equality Index, which analyzes how equitably American cities are distributing resources and access to opportunities between their highest-income households and lower-income ones.

In the last 15 years, Charlotte has made significant progress in addressing air pollution and natural disaster risk by expanding public transportation, increasing tree coverage, and implementing energy and water efficiency solutions. 

However, damage from climate events remains a very real risk and has the potential to jeopardize Charlotte’s ability to manage and sustain its rapid growth, as well as its ability to close the wealth gap.

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