located IN the Deep South and bordering the Gulf Coast, Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the United States, and funding for environmental programs is not always considered high-priority. Parts of Mississippi are predominately agricultural, particularly in the fertile Black Delta of the northeast and in the Mississippi Delta of the south. More than half on the state's land area is forested. The Mississippi River, from which the state takes its name, is the state's major geographic feature, and the river has a significant influence on the economy and the environment. Mississippi is susceptible to hurricanes, and Hurricane Katrina devastated sections of the state in 2005. Each year, an average of 27 tornadoes touch down in Mississippi. All of these factors play a part in making the state vulnerable to global warming and climate change.
Scientists are predicting that, if global warming is not checked, sea levels around the world may rise from 7-23 inches by the beginning of the 22nd century. In Mississippi, this would drastically increase costal erosion and lead to loss of habitat, particularly along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The number of destructive storms and hurricanes is likely to increase in Mississippi in response to climate change. Both economics and the environment of the state may be affected as a result of a decrease in agricultural productivity. Hotter temperatures may encourage the spread of tropical diseases and lead to major health problems, even death, in the hot summer months. Mississippi's responses to rising threats of global warming and climate change focus on improving air and water quality, protecting coastal areas, preventing pollution, educating the public, safely disposing of hazardous waste, and recycling.
Residents who blamed oil, chemical, and utility companies for global warming and damage to the states' wetlands that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina filed a class-action lawsuit in Mississippi and Louisiana in 2005. Plaintiffs accused the companies, which included Columbia Gulf Transmission, Shell Pipeline, and Exxon Mobil Oil of precipitating global warming by destroying the natural protection that wetlands would have provided, had the companies not dredged pipeline canals in the area. An additional suit charged oil companies with responsibility for increasing the area's vulnerability to global warming and destroying property as a result of hazardous emissions released during the storm.
According to the nonpartisan Washington-based research organization, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Mississippi rose by 255 percent 1960-2001. PIRG believes that the increase was due to a combination of CO2 emissions from motor vehicles and coal-fired power plants. Between 1990 and 2001, the population of Mississippi grew by 11 percent. During that time, CO2 emissions rose by 44 percent to a total of 69 million metric tons, and CO2 efficiency declined by minus 5 percent. Mississippi now ranks 34th in the nation in CO2 emissions. Although most states have banned the use of conventional motor gasoline because of its influence on global warming and climate change, Mississippi authorizes its use statewide. Coal-fired power plants provide around a tenth of Mississippi's total energy. Eight states and the City of New York have filed suit against energy companies that are accused of generating most of the pollution in the United States. Two of the companies involved in the suit operate in Mississippi. The Southern Company is second on the list; and the Tennessee Valley Authority is third.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has the chief environmental responsibility in Mississippi and is charged with ensuring clean air and water, preventing pollution, and safeguarding public health. The agency is supported by the seven-member Commission on Environmental Quality appointed by the governor. The Office of Pollution Control, the Office of Land and Water Resources, and the Office of Geology are subdivisions of MDEQ. Other state agencies involved in generating responses to global warming and climate change are the Depart ment of Agriculture and Commerce; the Department of Marine Resources; the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks; and the Forestry Commission.
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