Using the National Climate Assessment as a guide,the Environmental and Energy Study Institute held a discussion Thursday about how Midwestern cities can best adapt to climate change. The EESI has been holding briefings on each of eight regions. The Northeast briefing is set for next week.
“We are having a lot of extreme weather events,” Carol Werner,EESI executive director,said. “State and local officials have to respond every day.”
Rosina Bierbaum,natural resources and environmental policy professor at the University of Michigan,wrote the climate assessment and explained how the region could change if average temperatures increase.
The region – defined as the Great Lakes states plus Iowa and Missouri – will have more hot summer days,more drought conditions and more frequent heavy storms.
She said the changes will have implications for fish,water quality,agriculture and several other elements of life.
“It’s already affecting our pocketbooks,” she said.
Agriculture will have to adapt quickly as well. Jeremy Emmi,National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition managing director,said new climate patterns will lead to a crop boom and then diminishing returns sometime mid-century.
Emmi warned that different soil compositions north of the corn and soy belts aren’t as well suited for agriculture,dispelling the myth that agriculture could simply “move on north.”
These northern soils have more organic compounds,so cultivating them would have an unintended consequence.
“We’re going to release massive amounts of carbon,” Emmi warned.
Given that environmental legislation is unlikely in the current political climate,many municipalities have decided to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint and save energy.
“The past is no longer prologue,” Bierbaum said.
The town of Carmel,Ind.,took that warning and ran with it.
Mayor James Brainard has been working toward making his city of 86,000 residents 30 minutes north of Indianapolis more environmentally friendly. Through strategic zoning and city planning,Brainard has made his city more walkable – cutting down on how much gas is used by commuters. He said Carmel was the “roundabout capital,” replacing stoplights and stop signs at intersections.
“You may laugh,but it’s saved thousands of gallons of gas,” he said.
He’s also one of four Republicans on the White House environmental task force.
“I’m not very happy with some of my party,” Brainard said about Republicans who oppose fighting climate change.
By bringing local business leaders to the table,Brainard was able to work with conservatives in forging public-private partnerships that have green outcomes.
Larry Falkin,Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability director,said Midwesterners are in an interesting position because “we are not the ground zero of climate change.”
Because of that,local officials may be slow to establish contingency plans for possible disasters.
Falkin has started analyzing where the city’s blind spots might be.
His reports found sudden heavy rain,like the storm that hit Dayton,Ohio,in late May,could create dangerous landslides.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Falkin said.
Reach reporter Daniel Wheaton at [email protected] or 202-236-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.