Climate Change Is Real

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The City of Milwaukee wishes to acknowledge and attribute this information to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies for the decades of work in studying climate change and developing approaches to protect the environment. While this information may not be readily available on the EPA’s webpage right now, here in Milwaukee we know climate change is real. We are joining cities around the country to make sure citizens have access to information on climate change. We will continue to take climate action to adapt to climate threats while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Read for yourself the 2017 National Climate Assessment

For millenia, atmospheric carbon dioxide had never exceeded 300 parts per million.

For milennia, atmospheric carbon dioxide had never exceeded 300 parts per million (NASA)

The Earth's climate has changed in the past. Temperature and CO2 levels have fluctuated due to natural variation like changes in the earth's orbit or factors such as volcanic eruptions. An increase in greenhouse gases like CO2 causes an increase in temperature. Modern climate change is occurring at an unprecedented and alarming rate. The main driver behind climate change today is human activity, which has increased atmospheric carbon to levels higher than anything seen in at least 800,000 years. Climate change has and will continue to present risks like higher frequency and intensity of hurricanes, forest fires, more extreme and record breaking temperatures, increased precipitation and flood risk, drought, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, loss of biodiversity, and potential risks that climate models will not be able to predict. 

 

Arctic Sea Ice Cover Reaches Record Low
NASA Earth Observatory 2012

 

How will the Midwest be Affected by Climate Change?

Climate change is going to present the Midwest with rising temperatures, increased precipitation, growing flood risks, and lower air and water quality. These changes will have numerous consequences on land, industry, and residents of the Midwest. 

Agriculture

  • Reduced crop yields
  • Wetter conditions that increase soil erosion
  • More favorable conditions for pests and pathogens

Forestry

  • Invasive species and reduced biodiversity
  • Increase in tree mortality, decrease in forest productivity 
  • Challenges to industry: timber, recreation, 
  • Threats to plants, animals, and resources important to tribal communities 

Biodiversity and Ecosystems

  • Faster rates of species decline and extinction
  • Threats to ecological services such as flood control, water purification, and crop pollination
  • Freshwater resources from the Great Lakes at risk from climate stressors

Human Health

  • Lower air quality that could increase risk of lung and cardiovascular diseases
  • Heat-related illnesses and premature deaths
  • Drinking water contamination
  • By 2050, increased temperatures could cost around $10 billion (in 2015 dollars) due to premature deaths and lost work hours (RCP8.5)

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health (Environmental Defense Fund)

Climate change will disrupt ecosystems and societal ecosystems, leading to a variety of risks that will impact human health, especially vulnerable populations. 

 

Transportation and Infrastructure

  • Increased flooding and heat stress could damage stormwater management systems and transportation infrastructure
  • Combined sewer overflows

Community Vulnerability and Adaptation

  • Negative impacts on tribal people and culture who rely on threatened natural resources
  • Urban heat island effect and impact on homeless population
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