Congressional briefing highlights climate adaptation, mitigation efforts in Midwestern United States

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On July 17th, the Environment and Energy Study Institute held a briefing entitled “Climate Impacts in the Midwest: Becoming More Resilient.” The briefing showcased a variety of climate change effects happening now in the Midwest as well as various local efforts to mitigate and adapt to these environmental changes.

Rosina Bierbaum, Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan, outlined the impacts of climate change occurring now on agriculture, transportation and infrastructure, natural resources, human health, and economic well-being. Bierbaum was also a contributor for the US National Climate Assessment released this spring.

Her presentation noted that in the short-term, rising CO2 levels and warmer temperatures will benefit farmers by longer growing seasons and increased crop yields. However, more days of warmer temperatures will also increase the number of weeds, disease-carrying organisms, and insect pests. Over the long-term, the detrimental effects of climate change will ultimately decrease agricultural productivity, Bierbaum noted.

For human health, negative impacts outlined in Bierbaum’s presentation included increased heat waves, degraded air quality, longer allergy seasons, increased “pest” insects and reduced water quality.  She also noted that throughout the entire US, “very heavy” precipitation events are expected to increase, although the frequency of such events will be markedly higher in areas that traditionally experience a great amount of precipitation, such as the northeast and Midwest regions of the US.

Carmel, IN Mayor James Brainard  highlighted the actions Carmel is taking to reduce its carbon footprint and increase energy effceincy. Brainard is one of four Republicans serving on President Obama’s Climate Change Task Force. In 2008 he received the US Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Award.

Mayor Brainard discussed the city of Carmel’s 80 roundabouts, which replace traffic stops at road intersections. National studies state that, in addition to reducing injurious traffic accidents, roundabouts reduce pollution by less idling-time for cars and less gas being burned. Additionally, Mayor Brainard touched on his success in increasing access to public transit in Carmel and designing walkable-bikeable paths in the city community.

Larry Falkin, with the City of Cincinnati, Ohio Office of Environment and Sustainability, emphasized the many local effects of global climate disruption. For example, in extreme weather events, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, effects included food shortages, energy shortages and displaced populations. He also mentioned his office’s Green Cincinnati Plan, intended to help the city cope with the effects of climate change. Recommendations in the plan include preparing for prolonged heat, choosing plants for “growing zones,” mitigating the urban heat island effect and installing stronger infrastructure in anticipation of more intense storms.

Jeremy Emmi, with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, detailed his efforts to help farmers implement climate mitigation efforts that include promoting energy conservation, reducing methane emissions, and prioritizing conservation easements on landscapes that currently provide climate benefits.

Additional background material on the briefing is available here.

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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