By now you’ve heard much in the media about climate change. National and global leaders are talking about the importance of our actions on the earth ecosystems and resources. In case you are wondering about the science behind it and what this really means to us in the Midwest, I’ve pulled a few highlights from the 2014 The National Climate Assessment.
Key Message: Impacts to Agriculture
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.
Key Message: Forest Composition
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.
Key Message: Public Health Risks
Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks.
Key Message: Fossil-Fuel Dependent Electricity System
The Midwest has a highly energy-intensive economy with per capita emissions of greenhouse gases more than 20% higher than the national average. The region also has a large and increasingly utilized potential to reduce emissions that cause climate change.
Key Message: Increased Rainfall and Flooding
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.
Key Message: Increased Risks to the Great Lakes
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.
So what does this mean to you and me? I’m finding ways to reduce emissions by reducing my fossil fuel consumption, managing storm water at my home, and planting food bearing perennial plants and trees. Practice usually precedes policy. It’s time for public policy decisions to be made as well.
What are you doing?