Special Report

The Best and Worst American Cities to Live as Climate Change Gets Worse

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Homeownership is one of the best ways to secure a comfortable financial future. But with the effect of climate change kicking in front doors worldwide, locking yourself into a decades-long mortgage can mean exposing yourself to future adverse impacts of blistering heat waves, heavy storms, wildfires, and flooding — not to mention the rising insurance premiums that come with all of that. (Find out how 2023 compares to the hottest summers over last 50 years.)

In order to gauge where in the United States people are more or less likely to endure climate change impacts, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a ranking by online insurance marketplace Policygenius, which examined how the country’s 50 most-populated metropolitan statistical areas will fare by 2050 based on several climate change-related indicators that impact an area’s livability such as heat, air quality, and rising sea levels. Policygenius’ full methodology can be found here.

Despite the constant threat of earthquakes, San Francisco earned the highest overall score as the best city to confront the effects of climate change, with minimal exposure to extreme heat and humidity; a low percentage of properties built on flood plains; and geographically shielded from the effects of seasonal wildfires. Policygenius emphasizes that this ranking is of the largest metros and San Francisco has a much higher risk than many smaller cities.

Seattle, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Milwaukee are other cities that received high overall scores.

At the other end, Houston is least prepared to confront the challenges of climate change, according to Policygenius, owing to its exposure to hurricanes that are expected to become stronger and more frequent in the coming decades. Approximately 16% of Houston homes are built on 100-year flood plains, meaning they have a higher chance of being flooded, even by smaller storms. Other cities with low overall scores are Los Angeles, Tucson, Arizona; New Orleans, and Florida’s top four most-populated metro areas. (Globally, these are the 25 worst cities to live as global warming gets worse.)

Three cities scored the lowest in four indicators: Los Angeles for air quality, Tucson for heat and humidity, and Miami for flooding and sea level rise; climate-related disasters. This is likely not surprising. A recent report from the American Lung Association gave Los Angeles (and 10 other counties) failing grades in all three of its air quality measures,while Tucson keeps beating heat records. Similarly, Miami could see hurricanes becoming more frequent and more intense, and it is already seeing the effects of sea level rise

Click here to see the best and worst American cities to live as climate change gets worse.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

Source: Toa55 / iStock via Getty Images

1. San Francisco, CA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 95.7/100
> Air quality: 90/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 82.5/100
> Natural disasters: 91.3/100
> Population: 4,623,264

2. Seattle, WA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 90.5/100
> Air quality: 85/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 36.5/100
> Natural disasters: 67.3/100
> Population: 4,011,553

Source: JenniferPhotographyImaging / E+ via Getty Images

3. Minneapolis, MN
> Extreme heat and humidity: 66.3/100
> Air quality: 52/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 64.7/100
> Natural disasters: 52/100
> Population: 3,690,512

Source: EyeJoy / iStock via Getty Images

4. Baltimore, MD
> Extreme heat and humidity: 66/100
> Air quality: 69/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 60.5/100
> Natural disasters: 62/100
> Population: 2,838,327

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5. Milwaukee, WI
> Extreme heat and humidity: 71/100
> Air quality: 34/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 78.7/100
> Natural disasters: 70.7/100
> Population: 1,566,487

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

6. San Jose, CA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 100/100
> Air quality: 42/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 40/100
> Natural disasters: 57.3/100
> Population: 1,952,185

Source: Davel5957 / iStock via Getty Images

7. Columbus, OH
> Extreme heat and humidity: 63/100
> Air quality: 58/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 71.3/100
> Natural disasters: 70/100
> Population: 2,151,017

Source: jbentley09 / iStock via Getty Images

8. Portland, OR
> Extreme heat and humidity: 78/100
> Air quality: 94/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 28.3/100
> Natural disasters: 72/100
> Population: 2,510,696

Source: GeorgePeters / iStock via Getty Images

9. Buffalo, NY
> Extreme heat and humidity: 85.7/100
> Air quality: 75/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 34/100
> Natural disasters: 58.7/100
> Population: 1,162,336

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

10. Cleveland, OH
> Extreme heat and humidity: 68.7/100
> Air quality: 22/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 75.3/100
> Natural disasters: 66.7/100
> Population: 2,075,662

Source: Sara D. Davis / Getty Images

11. Raleigh, NC
> Extreme heat and humidity: 58/100
> Air quality: 78/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 68/100
> Natural disasters: 36.7/100
> Population: 1,448,411

Source: milehightraveler / iStock via Getty Images

12. Denver, CO
> Extreme heat and humidity: 55.3/100
> Air quality: 17/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 96/100
> Natural disasters: 68/100
> Population: 2,972,567

13. Pittsburgh, PA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 74.8/100
> Air quality: 26/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 35.3/100
> Natural disasters: 64/100
> Population: 2,353,538

14. Providence, RI
> Extreme heat and humidity: 89.7/100
> Air quality: 69/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 41.3/100
> Natural disasters: 52/100
> Population: 1,675,774

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15. Austin, TX
> Extreme heat and humidity: 52/100
> Air quality: 58/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 79/100
> Natural disasters: 31.3/100
> Population: 2,352,426

16. Kansas City, MO
> Extreme heat and humidity: 47.3/100
> Air quality: 44/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 78/100
> Natural disasters: 61.3/100
> Population: 2,199,544

Source: Bill Chizek / iStock via Getty Images

17. Washington, DC
> Extreme heat and humidity: 38/100
> Air quality: 46/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 52/100
> Natural disasters: 88/100
> Population: 6,358,652

Source: DenisTangneyJr / E+ via Getty Images

18. Bridgeport, CT
> Extreme heat and humidity: 71/100
> Air quality: 75/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 16.5/100
> Natural disasters: 52/100
> Population: 959,768

Source: traveler1116 / iStock via Getty Images

19. Richmond, VA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 48.3/100
> Air quality: 92/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 58/100
> Natural disasters: 61.3/100
> Population: 1,317,525

Source: Frank Armstrong / iStock via Getty Images

20. San Diego, CA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 90/100
> Air quality: 13/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 64.5/100
> Natural disasters: 34/100
> Population: 3,286,069

Source: daquellamanera / Flickr

21. Detroit, MI
> Extreme heat and humidity: 70/100
> Air quality: 39/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 60/100
> Natural disasters: 65.3/100
> Population: 4,365,205

Source: Harry Andresen / iStock via Getty Images

22. Boston, MA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 75.3/100
> Air quality: 81/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 11/100
> Natural disasters: 67.3/100
> Population: 4,899,932

Source: Kruck20 / iStock via Getty Images

23. Charlotte, NC
> Extreme heat and humidity: 59/100
> Air quality: 52/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 54.7/100
> Natural disasters: 46.7/100
> Population: 2,701,046

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

24. St. Louis, MO
> Extreme heat and humidity: 33/100
> Air quality: N/A
> Flooding and sea level rise: 57.3/100
> Natural disasters: 77.3/100
> Population: 2,806,615

Source: Gavin Averill / Getty Images

25. Atlanta, GA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 58.8/100
> Air quality: 48/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 53.3/100
> Natural disasters: 44/100
> Population: 6,144,970

26. Dallas, TX
> Extreme heat and humidity: 50.8/100
> Air quality: 72/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 96/100
> Natural disasters: 34.7/100
> Population: 7,759,615

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27. Sacramento, CA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 28/100
> Air quality: 66/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 57.5/100
> Natural disasters: 62.7/100
> Population: 2,411,428

Source: tankbmb / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

28. Cincinnati, OH
> Extreme heat and humidity: 51.3/100
> Air quality: 30/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 38.3/100
> Natural disasters: 68.7/100
> Population: 2,261,665

29. Virginia Beach, VA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 50.5/100
> Air quality: 96/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 10/100
> Natural disasters: 39.3/100
> Population: 1,806,423

Source: f11photo / iStock via Getty Images

30. Indianapolis, IN
> Extreme heat and humidity: 62/100
> Air quality: 17/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 70.3/100
> Natural disasters: 62.7/100
> Population: 2,129,479

Source: Jacob Boomsma / iStock via Getty Images

31. Phoenix, AZ
> Extreme heat and humidity: 52.5/100
> Air quality: 4/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 94/100
> Natural disasters: 31.3/100
> Population: 4,946,145

Source: DenisTangneyJr / E+ via Getty Images

32. Salt Lake City, UT
> Extreme heat and humidity: 32/100
> Air quality: 22/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 41/100
> Natural disasters: 62.7/100
> Population: 1,263,061

33. Oklahoma City, OK
> Extreme heat and humidity: 51.8/100
> Air quality: 28/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 81.3/100
> Natural disasters: 29.3/100
> Population: 1,441,647

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34. Louisville, KY
> Extreme heat and humidity: 31/100
> Air quality: 36/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 39.7/100
> Natural disasters: 66.7/100
> Population: 1,284,826

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

35. San Antonio, TX
> Extreme heat and humidity: 51.8/100
> Air quality: 32/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 84.3/100
> Natural disasters: 34.7/100
> Population: 2,601,788

Source: Robin Zeigler / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

36. Nashville, TN
> Extreme heat and humidity: 34.3/100
> Air quality: 52/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 42/100
> Natural disasters: 48.7/100
> Population: 2,013,506

Source: tacojim / iStock via Getty Images

37. Chicago, IL
> Extreme heat and humidity: 48.8/100
> Air quality: 13/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 27.3/100
> Natural disasters: 55.3/100
> Population: 9,510,390

Source: HaraldEWeiss / iStock via Getty Images

38. New York, NY
> Extreme heat and humidity: 63.3/100
> Air quality: 88/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 22.5/100
> Natural disasters: 65.3/100
> Population: 19,768,458

Source: Olga Kaya / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

39. Philadelphia, PA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 51.7/100
> Air quality: 39/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 39.8/100
> Natural disasters: 55.3/100
> Population: 6,228,601

Source: MattGush / iStock via Getty Images

40. Riverside, CA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 53.2/100
> Air quality: 6/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 48.7/100
> Natural disasters: 29.3/100
> Population: 4,653,105

Source: benedek / iStock via Getty Images

41. Memphis, TN
> Extreme heat and humidity: 22/100
> Air quality: 62/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 46.3/100
> Natural disasters: 36.7/100
> Population: 1,336,438

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42. Las Vegas, NV
> Extreme heat and humidity: 19.3/100
> Air quality: 8/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 89/100
> Natural disasters: 58/100
> Population: 2,292,476

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images News via Getty Images

43. New Orleans, LA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 24/100
> Air quality: 98/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 8/100
> Natural disasters: 31.3/100
> Population: 1,261,726

Source: csfotoimages / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

44. Tucson, AZ
> Extreme heat and humidity: 8/100
> Air quality: 10/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 94.7/100
> Natural disasters: 42/100
> Population: 1,052,030

Source: DESKCUBE / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

45. Orlando, FL
> Extreme heat and humidity: 20/100
> Air quality: 85/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 51/100
> Natural disasters: 12/100
> Population: 2,691,925

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46. Los Angeles, CA
> Extreme heat and humidity: 54/100
> Air quality: 2/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 40/100
> Natural disasters: 38/100
> Population: 12,997,353

47. Jacksonville, FL
> Extreme heat and humidity: 20/100
> Air quality: 64/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 10.5/100
> Natural disasters: 20.7/100
> Population: 1,637,666

Source: felixmizioznikov / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

48. Tampa, FL
> Extreme heat and humidity: 27.3/100
> Air quality: 58/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 11/100
> Natural disasters: 10.7/100
> Population: 3,219,514

Source: Davel5957 / iStock via Getty Images

49. Miami, FL
> Extreme heat and humidity: 37.3/100
> Air quality: 81/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 5.5/100
> Natural disasters: 3.3/100
> Population: 6,091,747

Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images News via Getty Images

50. Houston, TX
> Extreme heat and humidity: 14.7/100
> Air quality: 22/100
> Flooding and sea level rise: 20/100
> Natural disasters: 21.3/100
> Population: 7,206,841

Methodology

To find the best and worst American cities to live in as climate change gets worse, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed online insurance marketplace Policygenius ranking of America’s 50 largest cities by population. To determine which of those U.S. metro areas are the best and worst to live in 2050, Policygenius analyzed data from several sources and scored to cities across six key factors: Heat and humidity; flooding and sea level rise; climate-related disasters; air quality; social vulnerability; and community resilience. 

Each city was then assigned a categorical score based on its average ranking across the different indicators for each category with higher scores meaning a better outlook and a lower score a worse outlook. Full methodology can be found here. We added metro area population from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2021 one-year estimates.

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