The U.S. Global Change Research Program recently issued its report, “Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment” which provides a detailed analysis of the challenges and opportunities that the Midwest will face as a result of climate change. The full assessment can be found on the USGCRP’s dynamic website, http://nca2014.globalchange.gov.
The Assessment begins its Midwestern section by commenting that the “region’s highly energy-intensive economy emits a disproportionately large amount of the gases responsible for warming the climate.” How warm? The Assessment states that the “rate of warming in the Midwest has markedly accelerated over the past few decades” and projects an increase in regional temperatures of 3.8°F during 2046-2065 and between 5.6°F and 8.5°F during 2081-2100. These increases will challenge the Midwest in the following ways:
–“In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events. Though adaptation options can reduce some of the detrimental effects, in the long term, the combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to decrease agricultural productivity.”
–“The composition of the region’s forests is expected to change as rising temperatures drive habitats for many tree species northward. The role of the region’s forests as a net absorber of carbon is at risk from disruptions to forest ecosystems, in part due to climate change.”
–“Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks.”
–“Extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased during the last century, and these trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality, and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health, and infrastructure.”
–“Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes, including changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species, increased invasive species and harmful blooms of algae, and declining beach health. Ice cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season.”
The Assessment also addresses the opportunities that the Midwest has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically in the potential increased use of natural gas in the Midwest, as well as the Midwest’s “potential to produce energy from zero- and low-carbon sources given its wind, solar, and biomass resources, and potential for expanded nuclear power.” Other opportunities to reduce emissions cited by the report include: alternative low-carbon transportation options, soil management techniques, and methane capture systems.
Question for You
In the comment area below, please let me know what you think should be done (if anything) about climate change. What should be our first priority?
For more information about the Third National Climate Assessment, check out these videos produced by White House: