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Federal Climate Report Predicts Major Consequences For Great Lakes

Garth Clark
U.S. Department of Agriculture

A recent federal report warns of the consequences of climate change for Ohio, including threats to agriculture, forestry, and human health. The National Climate Assessment also details how climate change will affect the Great Lakes.

Surface temperatures on the Great Lakes are increasing and ice cover is declining, according to the report. And when combined with nutrient runoff from agriculture and invasive species, the report says the Great Lakes are at risk.

Cleveland sustainability chief Matt Gray says the report validated his belief in the impacts of climate change.

“The most important message for climate change is that it’s here, and it’s not really a stand-alone thing,” says Gray. “It’s really exacerbating existing challenges we’re already facing, and it’s really for those most vulnerable members of our community.”

The report cites the Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Network (GLCAN), a regional group Gray co-chairs, as an example of cities working together to manage climate change risks.

“This assessment lays out impacts as well as risks,” Gray says. “And it tries to highlight best practices.”

Some of those best practices include a vulnerability assessment created by five GLCAN communities that other cities can use to plan for the impacts of climate change.

In the Midwest, the National Climate Assessment’s authors predict adapting storm water systems to deal with more frequent storms will cost more than $500 million by the end of the century.

Another key message from the report on human health, warns that by mid-century, the Midwest “is projected to experience substantial, yet avoidable, loss of life, worsened health conditions, and economic impacts.”

The report predicts a dire future for agriculture, too, saying projected changes in precipitation and extreme temperatures will reduce productivity to 1980s levels.

When it comes to solutions, the report suggests increased use of green infrastructure, wetland system conservation, and increased public health surveillance and monitoring.

Reporter/producer Elizabeth Miller joined ideastream after a stint at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C., where she served as an intern on the National Desk, pitching stories about everything from a gentrified Brooklyn deli to an app for lost dogs. Before that, she covered weekend news at WAKR in Akron and interned at WCBE, a Columbus NPR affiliate. Elizabeth grew up in Columbus before moving north to attend Baldwin Wallace, where she graduated with a degree in broadcasting and mass communications.